Bangladesh’s global trade pulled itself out of the debris left in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic aided domestic consumption, taking the volume of cargoes handled by the Chattogram port in October to a seven-month high.
Official data showed that the improvement came in the last four months to October, compensating for a drastic fall when the pandemic was at its peak in Bangladesh.
The import and export trade had started experiencing a decline since January after the coronavirus disease was reported in China, slowing cargo handling by the port.
It slightly improved in March after Chinese factories and ports opened in late February.
But when the virus spread through Europe and the US, which are major destinations of Bangladesh’s garment exports, the merchandise shipment crashed down in March.
But with the reopening of the economy, businesses and industrial units from June, the two-way trade began growing again, as evidenced by the cargo handling at the port in the first four months of the fiscal year.
The country’s largest seaport handled 91.70 lakh tonnes of bulk and containerised inbound and outbound cargo in October, up from 90.15 lakh tonnes in September.
October’s handling volume was the highest since April, data from Chattogram Port Authority showed. In March, a total of 1.02 crore tonnes of import and export cargoes were handled by the port.
Port users and businesses credit the rising demand for raw materials and commodities to increased business activities after the reopening of the local economy and, to some extent, the global economy, for the increase in the cargo handling.
The transport of import cargoes through the port climbed during the period.
Imports through bulk cargoes stood at 67.84 lakh tonnes in October, which is the highest since April. Imports through containerised cargoes stood at 18.06 lakh tonnes, which is the highest since February.
Exports are mainly carried out through containerised cargoes, and 5.02 lakh tonnes of products were shipped abroad in October.
Ninety-two per cent of the country’s import and export cargoes are transported through the Chattogram port.
Mahbubul Alam, president of the Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the increased demand in the local market following the resumption of the local business activities contributed to the recovery.
Many industries were shut during the countrywide lockdown. After the economy reopened, production at the factories jumped as domestic consumption rose, he said.
“This led to the increase in demand for raw materials and commodities, pulling imports,” he said.
Alam said the impact of the pandemic has not been severe in Bangladesh and the international trade, mainly imports, started to recover after normalcy returned to China within a short period.
The country relies on China for raw materials.
The business leader thanked the Chattogram port and the customs authorities for providing round-the-clock service to allow faster release of imports.
Khairul Alam Sujan, a director of the Bangladesh Freight Forwarders Association, said apart from the negative impacts of coronavirus, the cargo transport through the port had decreased from April to June for some other reasons.
Many importers had failed to take the delivery of the imports on time, creating a considerable container and vessel congestion at the port. This slowed down the cargo throughput during the period, he said.
The situation at the port has improved significantly in the last couple of months as arriving vessels were being able to get berth without any delay, he said.