Imports and exports through the Chattogram Port declined in March by over 12 percent and 26 percent, respectively, due to the damaging effects of the novel coronavirus on the entire globe.
In February, too, imports had fallen by 16 percent from January, according to analysis by the customs value data of imported and exported goods available at the port city's customs house.
Businesspeople fear the country's imports and exports will further decrease in the coming days because the worsened coronavirus situation at the beginning of April.
Almost 92 percent of Bangladesh's import-export activities are performed through the Chattogram port – the prime seaport of the country. The Chattogram Custom House earns most of its revenue through taxation.
Mahbubul Alam, president of the Chattogram Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the coronavirus crisis has thrown all sectors topsy-turvy. As a result, imports and exports are decreasing every month. "Worse days await us regarding the country's business," he added.
According to the Chattogram customs, in March, the country imported goods worth Tk31,617 crore as per the customs value – about Tk4,500 crore less than that in the previous month.
In the meantime, exports of almost all products, including the top earner ready-made garments fell significantly, too.
Compared to those in February, exports in March earned Tk5,392 crore less. Last month, the country exported goods worth Tk14,785 crore.
Last month, exports of goods, in quantity, were around 21 percent lower than those in February. During this time, the quantity of imports saw a 13-percent rise but most of the products were less valuable, according to a source at the port city customs.
Abdus Salam, first vice-president of the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said, "Apparel exports have declined to a large extent due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Orders are being cancelled every moment.
"We are delivering some goods which were manufactured earlier, but the amount also fell from March 26 after the declaration of the nationwide general holidays."
Chattogram customs source said clearing and forwarding (C&F) agents usually submit 2,000 and 5,000 bills of entry per day, respectively, for imported and exported goods to the port city customs house.
However, the number of bills of entry also dropped in March, by around 25 percent and 26 percent, for imported and exported goods, respectively.
A total of 27,554 bills of entry were submitted to the port city customs for the release of imported goods in March – which was 9,281 fewer than those submitted the previous month.
Similarly, the number of bills of entry for export goods was around 114,000 in March – about 39,500 lower than those submitted in February.
Fakhrul Alam, a commissioner at the Chattogram customs, said they have kept the office operational even during this crisis. "However, what can we do if importers or C&F agents do not come to get their goods released?"
He said importers have refrained from having their products released because industries have been shut amid the coronavirus scare.
The customs source said the submission of bills of entry has decreased as customs activities have been limited and taxation on all goods, except for emergency foods, medicine and raw industrial materials, has stopped.
C&F businessman Monjur Morshed Bhuiyan Konok said their institutions have shut due to the scarcity of work. "We do not know when the situation will improve. Now, we are seeking God's mercy."
Abul Bashar Chowdhury, an importer and chairman of BSM Group in Chattogram, said, "Ramadan is only a few days ahead. Consumer goods are largely imported during this time. However, imports are declining every month as all sectors have been stalled by the coronavirus."