Bangladesh’s trade through Naf river grinds to a halt amid Myanmar skirmishes

The halt on trade at Teknaf Land Port in Cox’s Bazar means the government is losing revenue

Jashim MahmudMintu
Published : 9 Feb 2024, 11:00 PM
Updated : 9 Feb 2024, 11:00 PM

The ongoing conflict between the Myanmar military and armed insurgents has forced businesses from both sides to suspend trade through the Naf river.

The severe disruptions in trade at Teknaf Land Port in Cox’s Bazar has caused the Bangladesh government to lose revenue.

Usually Myanmar businesses send wood, betel nut, fish, ginger, turmeric, chilli, onions, dried fish, pulses, lentils, rice and pickles from Maungdaw, Akiyab and other river ports through Teknaf.

Bangladesh exports plastic products, readymade garments, chips, aluminium products, medicines, cosmetics, and food products through the same points.

The government earned Tk 76.3 million in revenue from export-import through Teknaf Land Port in the 2022-23 fiscal year. Bangladesh imported nearly 200,000 tonnes of goods and exported over 3,500 tonnes that financial year, according to the Bangladesh Land Port Authority.

The exports were over 11,000 tonnes in the previous fiscal year, against imports of over 233,000 tonnes of goods. The revenue that fiscal year was Tk 92.3 million.

The escalation of conflict in Myanmar has caused a climate of fear, severely impacting the volume of trade through the port. According to Jasimuddin Chowdhury, general manager of United Land Port, the operator of Teknaf Land Port, trade activities have nearly ceased.

During regular operations, 150-200 large engine boats would transport goods through the river each month, but this number has dwindled to 25-30 in the last two and a half months, Jasimuddin said.

The port and its jetty, once bustling with activities of trucks and covered vans, now lie almost deserted, affecting nearly 50 shops along the Teknaf-Cox’s Bazar Regional Highway and leaving the area devoid of the usual traffic of trucks and covered vans. Even the Naf river saw no goods vessels recently, leaving some previously imported goods stranded at the port.

Abdul Amin, a representative of the land port workers, highlighted the joblessness among many workers due to the reduced activity. Generally, 20-25 trucks are loaded or unloaded every day, but the number fell to four-five a week now, according to him.

Importer Mohammad Selim said businesses would suffer huge losses if they cannot bring hundreds of tonnes of ginger, coconuts, fish and betel nuts stuck in Akiyab.

Customs Officer Mosharraf Hossain said revenues have taken a hit from the halt on trade.

Port official Jasimuddin said only two trawlers brought 1,500 sacks of ginger, coconuts, pickles, betel nuts and dried fish last Friday.