Absence of Bon Fim Customs service, deteriorating road could undermine trade
An estimated US$500,000 worth of goods is purchased by Brazilians at Lethem every month and taken across the border according to a report on the Guyana-Brazil Economic Interaction prepared by the Rupununi Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The report said that while Guyanese traders who move goods from Georgetown to the interior have always done well in the regions, trading between Guyanese and Brazilians at Lethem has accelerated, “There is evidence of new businesses at Lethem and visible expansion and modernization of businesses that existed before,” the report said.
The report said that while the initial demand was primarily for “name brand” footwear, Brazilian buyers now required many other items including electrical and electronic goods, beverages, bicycles and some food items. According to the report the strength of the Brazilian Real (which is currently trading at around 1.71 to the US$) meant that these goods were much cheaper in Lethem than in Boa Vista and Manaus. “The new trade is a reverse of the business that existed between Guyana and Brazil in 2006,” the report said.
According to the report some of the traders visiting Lethem travel more than 120 km And 420 km from Boa Vista and Manaus, respectively. “There are even visitors from the Santa Helena area on the Brazil-Venezuela border.” According to the report these visitors usually cross the Takutu River using the existing daily pontoon service.
An estimated 60 vehicles reportedly cross the river into Guyana on weekdays with around 200 crossing on weekends. The report says that the volume of crossings means that Lethem receives as many as 200 visitors every day,
The report says, however, that increased trade between Guyana and Brazil is being stifled by the absence of a Roraima State Customs Authority presence at Bon Fim. “While the Partial Scope and the International Road Transport Agreements were ratified by the Brazilian Congress in 2007 there is no indication that the Brazilian authorities are willing to provide customs services any time soon,” the report said.
The report states that the visitors to Lethem from Brazil have indicated a preparedness to pay the relevant taxes and duties if a customs service is put in place at Bon Fim and have complained of being subjected to searches and confiscation of goods by the Federal Police authorities across the border.
According to the report the increase in the volume of goods moving from Guyana across the border to Brazil has also resulted in increased use of the Lethem-Linden road and the use of larger trucks to move goods from Georgetown to Lethem.
The report says that while government has been allocating sums of money for what it describes as “temporary maintenance of the road” the increased traffic has resulted in “rapid and serious deterioration to sections of the road,” According to the report no maintenance works are currently being done on the crucial stretch of the road between Mabura Hill and Linden and the lack of maintenance “may soon present massive financial and other problems for the Government of Guyana.”