Businessmen want end to transit of Indian goods thru Ashuganj

Three associations of steel and re-rolling mills of the country on Monday demanded an immediate halt to transit of Indian goods

using Ashuganj river port to protect the country’s rod and steel industry.

Leaders of the associations at a joint press conference at Dhaka Reporters’ Unity also warned that they would go for a tough movement, if the government did not stop crossing of Indian goods, especially raw materials for rod and steel, through Ashuganj to the seven north-eastern states of India.

‘Indian businesses are transporting ingot and billet, raw materials for producing rod and steel, without any duty through Akhauria using Ashuganj river port to the seven north-eastern states. This has put the local steel and re-rolling mills in threat,’ said Bangladesh Auto Re-Rolling and Steel Mills’ Association chairman SK Masudul Alam Masud.

Leaders of the Bangladesh Auto Re-rolling and Steel Mills’ Association, Bangladesh Steel Mill Owners’ Association, and Bangladesh Re-rolling Mills’ Association were present at the conference.

Masud said local steel and re-rolling mills had for long been demanding duty-free access of Bangladeshi rod and steel products to the land-locked seven Indian states. ‘But, we have yet to receive any result, despite getting assurance from the Bangladesh government that it would pursue the matter with India.’

‘Now, the government is allowing access of Indian steel products to the states without imposing any duty. This is not a level-playing act done by our government,’ he said.

Masud also feared that Indian steel products might flood the Bangladesh market as the production cost of steel and rod in Bangladesh was higher because of gas and energy crisis in the country.

BARSMA secretary general Abul Kashem Majumder said the price of raw materials for rod and steel products in the country had increased significantly. As a result, only around 100 of the 300 local re-rolling mills have managed to remain in operation while the rest had to close down.

According to Abul Kashem, the total investment in the steel and re-rolling industry in the country now stands at around Tk 20,000 crore. The average annual production of the industry is now 40 lakh tonne against the capacity of 80 lakh tonne, while the local demand is for 30 lakh tonne.

‘Even after the reduced production, we can export 10 lakh tonnes of rod and steel. The seven Indian states should be our ideal market because of the low transportation cost,’ he said.

Even if Dhaka gives transit to Indian goods, it should make sure New Delhi gives duty-free access to Bangladesh’s rod and steel products without any non-tariff barriers, he said.

Masud warned that, if the government did not immediately stop transit of Indian goods through Asuganj, they would launch a tough movement, initially organising a sit-in programme at Ashuganj.

Bangladesh Steel Mill Owners’ Association secretary general M Shahjahan and Bangladesh Re-rolling Mills’ Association general secretary Abu Bakar Siddiqui also spoke at the conference.

Source: newagebd.com

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