Coronavirus hits Nepal-China trade

Kathmandu, February 2

The country’s trade with China has been halted completely following the closure of the Rasuwagadi border — the major trade point between the two nations — due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The government shut Rasuwagadi border on January 28 to prevent the spread of coronavirus after the number of infections in China soared. As a result, Nepal-China trade has been completely halted.

China is Nepal’s second largest trading partner after India. While Nepal exported goods worth Rs 863 million to China in the first five months of the current fiscal, the country imported goods worth Rs 88.6 billion from the northern neighbour during the same period.

Nepal primarily exports handicraft goods to China and imports ready-made garments, footwear products, chemical fertilisers, electrical goods, machinery parts, pipes, raw silk, telecommunication equipment and television equipment and parts from China.

“Hundreds of Nepal-bound containers have been stalled in parts of China following the closure of the entry point. Nepal-China trade is certain to be affected as China copes with the outbreak of coronavirus,” said Kamalesh Agrawal, vice-president of Nepal Chamber of Commerce.

Trade with China will resume only after the coronavirus outbreak is brought under control, but nobody knows when that will happen. Agrawal added that the market would soon start facing shortage of Chinese goods and there were also chances of Chinese goods becoming dearer. “We hope the coronavirus outbreak is controlled soon and international trade with China becomes normal,” he added.

Meanwhile, the price of Chinese garlic has already skyrocketed in the domestic market following a halt in its import from China. The domestic market largely depends on Chinese garlic. The halt in supply has resulted in more than twofold rise in the price of garlic over the past one week. Though Chinese garlic was available at around Rs 300 per kg in the domestic market a week ago its retail price went past Rs 600 per kg today.

Officials at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies said nothing could be done at the moment to address the current halt in trade between Nepal and China with the northern neighbour adopting precautions to cope with the coronavirus outbreak. “We’ll closely monitor the domestic market to ensure that prices of Chinese goods are not hiked arbitrarily,” Nabaraj Dhakal, joint secretary at MoICS, told THT.