Export: Export of limestone powder to Bangladesh has been halted since February 7. Bangladeshi customs at the Burimari border, it is learned, has issued a Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO) that limestone powder falls under the Harmonised System (HS) code 2517.

Until now, HS code 2521 is identified for this mineral powder, which is duty free as per the protocol in the bilateral trade agreement with Bangladesh. The new code, 2517, is not duty free.

Limestone powder (feed grade) is a supplement substance exported to Bangladesh. It is used in manufacturing poultry feeds. Bangladeshi customs has maintained that the minerals exported are aggregates used in constructions and railway ballast and not feed supplement.

RSA private limited, one of the leading exporters, has transported back nine truckloads of limestone powder on February 20. It had kept the loads for more than 11 days at Changrabanda, located on the Indian border with Bangladesh.

“The company had to bear demurrage charges,” an RSA official said.

Demurrage charges range from Indian Rupee (INR) 1,000 to INR 3,000 depending on the size and capacity of the trucks.

Initially eight truckloads of limestone powder were held at Burimari on February 5. The importers in Bangladesh, however, managed to transport the trucks through customs then.

This is the second time the export of limestone powder has been stopped at the border. In 2007, a similar code issue had caused exports to be suspended for three months.

Although the issue remains unsolved after a month, the RSA official, however, said that the issue has been brought to the notice of all relevant agencies such as the trade department, Bhutan Exporters Association, and the Bhutan Chamber for Commerce and Industries.

“We have heard informally that the issue would get sorted out soon,” the RSA official said, adding that the Bhutanese embassy in Bangladesh will have a meeting with the National Board of Revenue in Bangladesh.

There is also a growing concern among Bhutanese exporters with regards to the country’s overall export transactions to Bangladesh. With the increase in number of trucks from the country, especially, the export of boulders during the peak season, more than 200 trucks with Bhutanese loads enter Bangladesh.

But the port at Burimari in Bangladesh allows only 200 trucks per day, including Indian trucks. Bhutanese exports have been reduced to about 150 trucks on average these days.

The bilateral trade agreement between the two countries allows 90 products from Bangladesh free of tax, while 18 products from Bhutan is duty free in Bangladesh.

Rajesh Rai, Phuentsholing