Nepal’s int’l trade reaches close to normalcy

KATHMANDU, July 1 (Xinhua) — Nepal’s international trade increased substantially after Nepali government started to relax the three-month-long nationwide lockdown, Nepal’s government data showed.

The Nepali government had imposed a nationwide lockdown on March 24 to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Although COVID-19 cases in the country has been rising rapidly with the number reaching 13,564, Nepal began to relax the lockdown since early May.

Firstly, the Nepali government allowed 44 sectors to reopen on May 6 and then on June 10, it relaxed the lockdown allowing almost all economic activities to operate.

According to the Department of Customs, Nepal’s total international trade was worth 673 million U.S. dollars in a month starting from mid-May, a sharp rise from 378 million U.S. dollars in the previous month (mid-April-mid-May). In the preceding month (mid-March-mid-April), Nepal’s total foreign trade was worth 513 million U.S. dollars.

As a result of the lockdown, Nepal’s international trade during the first 11 months of the current fiscal year 2019-20 that ends in mid-July, decreased by 14.33 percent to 9.8 billion U.S. dollars, according to the customs department.

Nepal’s Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada said on Monday in a webinar organized by Confederation of Nepalese Industries, a grouping of medium and large scale enterprises, that Nepal’s international trade has recovered to a large extent after the Nepali government started to relax lockdown.

“Initially, after we imposed nationwide lockdown, our international trade was as low as 20 percent of our normal trade in a month,” Khatiwada said. “Now, it has recovered to around 80 percent of normal monthly international trade.”

Nepal’s Customs offices have also reported a surge in international trade, particularly imports, after relaxation of the lockdown. Dhundi Niraula, chief customs officer at Birgunj Customs office bordering India, told Xinhua on Tuesday that international trade through this customs point has largely normalized.

“Import of machinaries is however limited compared to normal situation,” said Niraula, who is the in-charge of the largest customs office of Nepal.

As this customs office deals with imported goods mostly from India, he said that trade between the two countries is taking place normally to a large extent. India is the largest trading partner of Nepal with which Nepal’s nearly two thirds of trade takes place.

Nepali officials said that trade with China is also heading towards normalcy. “After reopening of Tatopani-Zhangmu border in late March, another border point — Rasuwagadhi-Kerung (Geelong) is also reopened shortly,” Navaraj Dhakal, spokesperson at Nepal’s Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supply told Xinhua early last week.

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