Medicine and fruit imports surge during pandemic

During the coronavirus outbreak, the import of fresh fruit and foreign medicines has increased as the people have upped their consumption of fruit and medicine to stay healthy.

On the flip side, imports of industrial raw materials and capital equipment has decreased during the first five months (July-November) of the 2020-21 fiscal. Overall, imports declined by over 8.5 per cent. This was revealed in a comparison between Letters of Credit (LC) opened in July November this financial year and those in the corresponding period of last fiscal, according to Bangladesh Bank records.

Imports rose by 9.70 per cent in November 2020 with the goods and services worth USD 4.81 billion being imported. In the corresponding period of November 2019, imports totalled USD 4.39 billion. However, compared to July-November of the fiscal 2019-20, imports have decreased by 8.81 per cent in the corresponding period of fiscal 2020-2021.

In the first five months of the current fiscal, a total of commodities worth USD 218.8 billion have been imported, compared to USD 239.9 billion of the corresponding period of the previous fiscal.

In July-November 2020, nearly LC of USD 50 million were opened for importing foreign medicines. That was USD 30 million at the corresponding period last year. In this regard, the opening of LC’s has risen by 64 per cent. And the settling of LCs increased by 34 per cent. However, in the corresponding period, the opening of LC for importing raw materials has decreased by 7.31 per cent.

At the same time, USD 220 million LC’s have opened for importing fresh and dried fruits, which was USD 170 million in 2019. So the rate of opening LC and its settlement have increased 25 and 20 per cent respectively.

In the garment sector, LC of USD 3.34 billion opened in July-November in fiscal 2020, compared to USD 3.98 billion dollars in the corresponding period of 2019. In this respect, the opening of LC and its settlement has decreased 16 and 14 per cent respectively.

In the first five months of the current fiscal year, LC for importing rice, onion, cotton and synthetic fiber has increased while LC for importing dairy products, edible oil, coal, cement, paper and paper board has declined.

The government has announced an incentive package of over Tk 1000 billion (Tk 1 lakh crore) to cope with the losses in the economy caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. From this package, large and small traders are taking loans at low interest. However, no one is setting up any new factories.

Sirajul Islam, executive director and spokesperson of Bangladesh Bank, told Prothom Alo that people’s demands have declined globally due to Covid-19 pandemic and this has had an impact on imports.