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Rice exports via Kolkata, Haldia ports fall 55% in 2 years

Monday, 21 January 2019 | 00:00

Shobha Roy Rice exports from West Bengal through the Kolkata and Haldia ports have dropped by 55 per cent in the last two years.

According to exporters association, the State shipped close to 30,000 containers, around 8.4 lakh tonnes (lt) of rice in 2016-17 through the two ports. However, in 2017-18, it exported 13,000 containers (3.64 lt). The exports through the ports during April-December of the current fiscal is close to 12,000 containers (3.36 lt).

Infra bottlenecks
The exporters’ association feels the low draft at Kolkata Port and inadequate infrastructure, including non-availability of bulk cargo facility are the reasons for the decline. However, according to Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) officials, while it is partly due to operational issues, the decline in exports is also due to the demand-supply situation.

“Low draft in Kolkata Port, especially from November to February, renders availability of vessels difficult, leading to increased waiting time at port. It also leads to increased transportation fare due to reduced supply of vessels,” Suraj Agarwal, CEO, Tirupati Agri Trade, told BusinessLine. Moreover, the poor infrastructure at the vessel loading area shrinks the draft.

In the case of Haldia Port, few empty containers are available for exports as imports are low.

Total exports
In 2016-17, Bengal exported around 10.4 lt of rice worth ₹2,500 crore. This includes 8.4 lt through Kolkata and Haldia ports and the remaining by road to Bangladesh or and via other ports like Vizag.

However, in 2017-18, while the exports were higher (close to 12 lt), the volumes routed through the ports declined to 3.64 lt. This was also because close to 6lt of rice was exported by road to Bangladesh, which was facing a shortfall in production due to drought. In fact, average prices of export quality rice had shot up by over 20 per cent to ₹2,700 a quintal in 2017-18 following a steady demand from Bangladesh.

“Exports usually pick up during from late November to February. We have already exported close to 12,000 containers and in the next three months we should be able to send another 5,000-6,000 containers,” Agarwal said.

West Bengal produces 150-160 lt of paddy each year across the three seasons. The kharif paddy (aus and aman seasons) output accounts for about 70 per cent of the total production.

Following concerns expressed by rice exporters, KoPT recently organised a meeting of stakeholders, including representatives from the export association, port officials, shipping line and CHA association.

While draft is a natural constraint for a riverine port, the KoPT hopes to address the issue partly by arranging for a new dredger.

“We hope to have the new dredger by July, and this should help improve the draft by 0.5 metre,” a senior KoPT official said.

The exporters’ association also wanted warehouses in off-city limits as it proves to be difficult to bring containers within the city. The port trust is looking into it and has also asked exporters to come up with proposals.

Meanwhile, the KoPT has also extended the cut-off time to seven days as against five days as per trade demand. This will give more time for exporters to get the containers ready and shipped, the official said.
Source: The Hindu Business Line

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