Offsetting the coronavirus fallout, Bangladesh’s imports from China climbed to around 10 percent in May, 20 percent in June
The country's imports from China have begun getting back on an even keel, thus counteracting the shock resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Though imports from mainland China had been shrinking gradually since February this year owing to the novel coronavirus outbreak, they regained pace from the May-June period.
Offsetting the virus fallout, Bangladesh's imports from China climbed to around 10.23 percent in May and 20.94 percent in June.
Shipping agents said imports would be smoother in the upcoming months as Bangladesh has ended the mandatory 14-day quarantine protocol for vessels arriving from mainland China.
The Chattogram Port Authority says it typically takes about ten to eleven days for a vessel to reach Bangladesh from China. The quarantine forced ships to idle for two weeks before berthing in Bangladesh – an attempt to prevent crews from spreading the virus. That in turn increased import costs.
Chattogram port – the centre-point of Bangladesh's trading activity – handles around 92 percent of the country's imports and exports, with Chinese products contributing the lion's share to imports through the port.
Items imported from China include machinery, electric and electronic items, raw materials for apparel industries, raw materials for printing, ginger, garlic and cinnamon.
All the raw material imports from China were almost suspended since Bangladesh went under a virus-led countrywide shutdown on March 26. Imports started to recover the pace with factories and other businesses reopening on June 1.
The virus spread crippled imports in two phases – when the situation deteriorated in China and later when Bangladesh announced a shutdown, explained Chattogram Chamber of Commerce & Industry (CCCI) President Mahbubul Alam.
He said import had been on gradual fall since last January as the pandemic took a deadly turn in China. The shutdown in Bangladesh in March dealt the second blow to the country's import.
"Imports improve with China recovering from the virus situation and businesses in Bangladesh have also resumed," said the CCCI president.
The virus-led shutdown forced the Chattogram Customs House to continue operations on a limited scale. Taxation and delivery of goods, except food and emergency items, were on pause in all that time.
Many importers could not have consignments released from the port due to factory closures and the transportation suspension, which led to a major container congestion at Chattogram port.
The congestion, on the other hand, delayed unloading, taxation and delivery of import consignments from ships that arrived at the port.
The situation at the port started improving in the last week of April as the Customs House returned to normal operations.
AM Chowdhury Selim, vice-president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), said a number of orders of raw materials got stuck in China in February-April period due to the virus situation.
"The country has been supplying those earlier orders from May-June period since their virus situation improved," said the apparel manufacturers association leader.
In the meantime, Bangladesh Shipping Agent Association Chairman Ahsanul Huq Chowdhury hoped imports from China would return to normalcy in the coming months as Bangladesh's maritime regulator had recently suspended the 14-day quarantine order on ships from China.
China is Bangladesh's largest trading partner for both intermediary and finished goods. Bangladesh's imports from China are expected to rise further as part of an effort to help the economy recover from the Covid-19-linked slowdown.