Imports from China resume

Anxiety still grips exporters

Shakhawat Hossain  | Published: 01:26, Mar 16,2020


A prolonged shutdown of imports in the country from coronavirus-struck China is almost over but the outbreak of the virus in both parts of the Atlantic has kept export-oriented businessmen in anxiety.

Several importers told New Age on Sunday that they were expecting arrival of Chinese goods in Chittagong sea port from the fourth week of this month.

Already many ships laden with goods like capital machinery, raw and semi-finished products have left China on the way to different directions, including Bangladesh, said secretary general Al Mamun Mridha of the Bangladesh-China Chamber of Commerce and Industries.

These are the first consignments since the Chinese authorities extended their New Year holiday — initially set from January 24 to 30 — by a month and a half due to the outbreak of coronavirus killing 3,199 and infected 80,844 as of the end of Saturday.

Bangladesh brought in products worth $13.63 billion from China, or 26.1 per cent of the overall $52.1 billion imports, in 2018–19 fiscal year ending in June last.

China has already announced that the spread of the coronavirus was almost contained, but countries in Europe and America reported that number of cases had been growing.

The plight in Italy and Spain intensified the fear among the export oriented manufacturers that a quick improvement in the endemic situation would result in slowdown in export business.

Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association first vice-president Mohammad Hatem said that the resumption of imports from China would not reduce anxiety of the exporters.

Europe is the single largest export destination of the country’s export goods enjoyed generalised scheme of preferences in the economic bloc.

Bangladesh’s RMG export to the continent in 2019 stood at $20.42 billion.

Export earnings from Spain stood at $2.2 billion in FY19, from Italy $1.64 billion and from Japan $1.3 billion.

The US is the other important destination as apparel exports to the US in 2019 grew 9.83 per cent to $5.93 billion from $5.40 billion in the year 2018.

Amal Podder, managing director of export oriented Metro Knitting and Dyeing Mills Ltd, said exports to the European countries was facing disruption due to the virus outbreak.

He said they expected that the situation would improve soon before affecting the business too much.

According to an analysis of the Asian Development Bank, the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the Bangladesh economy would be limited to 0.01 per cent of its gross domestic product.

ADB said that the economic losses would be equivalent to $8 million in the best-case, $16 million in a moderate-case and $30 million in a worse-case scenario while people ranging from 2,000 to 7,000 may also lost their jobs in the best-case to worse-case scenarios.

Economists fear that the coronavirus outbreak in Europe can bring a huge shock to the country’s export earnings.

Actual impact on the Bangladesh export is yet to be assessed as it will depend on the developments surrounding the outbreak, said centre for policy dialogue distinguished fellow Mustafizur Rahman.

Policy Research Institute executive director Ahsan H Mansur said that the country should prevent the spread of the virus in the country as it would panic the global buyers.

Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission in a report in February predicted that the epidemic could put a huge negative impact on Bangladesh’s export and import.

According to the report, 13 sectors, including export-oriented RMG, leather and leather goods, apparel accessories, cosmetics, electrical goods, jute, medical equipment, electronics goods and plastic goods, might face the blow.

The leather sector alone may face a loss of Tk 3,000 crore due to the epidemic, it said.

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