Imports through Chattogram port, the prime seaport of the country, are on the rise even during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
In the first 10 months of fiscal 2020-2021, the amount of imports has exceeded that of the entire previous fiscal year.
With two months left in the current financial year, over 94.24 lakh tonnes more goods have been imported through this port as compared to the last fiscal year.
According to businessmen, the supply chain was disrupted when the first coronavirus cases were found in China in December 2019. It also had some effect in Bangladesh.
Even then, the country's main seaport was 100% operational. Due to this, the transportation of goods by international sea routes did not have much negative impact. There has been positive growth in the handling of imported goods even during the coronavirus period.
Mahbubul Alam, president of the Chattogram Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said a slowdown is prevailing across the globe due to the coronavirus pandemic. It is positive that the port is still fully operational to keep the country's import and export trade uninterrupted.
"Although imports have increased, exports have declined. I expect the volume of exports to increase if the coronavirus situation gets back to normal," he added.
According to Chattogram Port, it handled 9.67 crore tonnes of import cargo in the first ten months of the current financial year.
The port handled more than 8.72 crore tonnes of import cargo in fiscal 2019-20, more than 8.29 crore tonnes in fiscal 2018-19, and more than 7.8 crore tonnes in fiscal 2017-18.
It handled over 6.64 crore tonnes in fiscal 2016-17, over 5.83 crore tonnes in fiscal 2015-16 and over 4.89 crore tonnes in fiscal 2014-15.
Despite the increase in imports, the amount of exports is declining in the current financial year as in the last fiscal year.
The prices of raw materials for the readymade garment industry, the main export sector of the country, has doubled. Production has dropped by about 40% due to the non-receipt of cancelled orders. As a result, exporters think that the growth in exports will be negative at the end of the current financial year.
"We have not received the orders again which were cancelled by foreign buyers last year due to coronavirus. This year too, the coronavirus situation has deteriorated again," said Rakibul Alam Chowdhury, vice-president of Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).
"On the other hand, the price of raw materials, especially yarn, has almost doubled. In this situation, the production in the factories is reduced by about 40%. As a result, there was a big disaster in the export of garments."
According to the export data of Chattogram port, more than 66.85 lakh tonnes of goods were exported in fiscal 2019-2020 and more than 68.46 lakh tonnes in the previous fiscal year.
In the last financial year, the export volume decreased by more than 2 lakh tonnes compared to the previous fiscal year.
Besides, over 69.97 lakh tonnes of goods were exported in fiscal 2017-18, over 67.9 lakh tonnes in fiscal 2016-17, over 59.71 lakh tonnes in fiscal 2015-16, and over 58.39 lakh tonnes in fiscal 2014-15.
In addition to the Chattogram port, there are 19 private inland container depots (ICDs) operating round the clock to keep the supply chain going. In these ICDs, 100% of the export goods are shipped by filling containers. In addition, 38 types of products including food are delivered.
"We are working to keep imports and exports uninterrupted even in the time of coronavirus crisis," said Nurul Qayyum Khan, president of Bangladesh Inland Container Deposit Association (Bicda), an organisation of ICD owners.
"All ICDs are engaged in prompt delivery of imported goods and shipping of exported goods."
Md Omar Farooq, secretary to the Chattogram Port Authority, said the port is 100% operational to keep the supply chain uninterrupted.
"The port is also open during lockdowns and Eid holidays. In this case, the port-related organisations are cooperating," he added.