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29 February, 2020 00:00 00 AM
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Chawkbazar trade gets hit by coronavirus

OUR CORRESPONDENT, DU
Chawkbazar trade gets hit by coronavirus

Dating back from Mughal period, the 400-year-old Chawkbazaar in old Dhaka has been the city's main hub for Chinese goods. But the coronavirus threat is

taking a toll on business transactions in this market.  

The supply of Chinese goods has ceased since the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus in Wuhan, China. With the Eid-ul-Fitr only a couple of months away, traders in the market are wary about the situation ahead of their biggest revenue-fetching season.

Chawkbazaar is famous across the country for its cheap and affordable goods. Here shopping malls and makeshift  shops always remain crowded as people look for different types of products at both retail and wholesale prices. Visiting the market yesterday, this correspondent found buyers rambling across the market.

Tashrif Ahmed, who came from Bagerhat, said: “Like every year, I have come to buy bags and cosmetics for my  shop. But the stock here has dwindled. There is no supply. There’s not much point in bargaining.”

Shafi Mahmud, president of Bangladesh Monihari Banik Samiti and one of the biggest importers in Chawkbazar, said the hitchhiking of prices of goods was one of their main concerns. "Most merchants still have some stocks. The crisis is not apparent at present. But it'll be a big problem in the March–April period. it will be a big problem. Even if the situation in China becomes normal in the next week, the supply problem is going to persist here. And if the crisis continues, the consequences will be longer,” he explained.

Meanwhile, many traders have begun to consider India as an alternative market. They fear that the coronavirus threat in China could delay the supply and make the market unstable. They, however, admit that it is difficult to negotiate or switch from the source country in a

short time.

"As an alternative, we are thinking of importing raw materials and finished products from India. Some are already doing so. However, the price is higher because of the making and transporting cost. Also, we remain sceptical about Indian suppliers' ability to meet the delivery timeframe,” said Shafi Mahmud.

According to the commerce ministry, China has invested the most in Bangladesh as a single country in the last 10 years. The trade volume is around USD 18 billion.

As per Bangladesh Bank's estimation, Bangladesh's imports from China amounted to USD 13.64 billion, which was 26.1 per cent of the total imports for that fiscal year.

China’s factories and trading activities have been shut since January 20 before the new moon year, one of the main festivals in that country, because of the coronavirus threat. Some traders said Chinese factories were yet to start production due to the absence of workers, even though the factories were opened after the holiday ended.

Though Chinese exporters have assured that the situation will become normal in the first week of March, traders find it hard to rely on such assurances.

Haji Ibrahim, another importer and traders' association leader, told The Independent that Chinese exporters were inviting them to place orders on a regular basis. “We do more transactions from China's Guangdong province and Yiwu city. A supplier from the Yiwu market just invited us, but we have to go there to check the product and talk about the deal. But we can't go there as yet,” he said.

“After placing an order, it takes one to two months to produce the product. Shipments take another month. All in all, it may take three to four months for the product to be imported," he added.

The Chinese ambassador to Bangladesh, Li Jiming, recently said that the situation was improving in China, which would work twice as fast to overcome the effects of coronavirus.

Urging Bangladeshi businessmen not to relocate businesses to another country, Li Jiming said: “Considering the situation, transferring business to another country would be costly, impossible, and unnecessary.”

Ahsan H Mansour, executive director of the Policy Research Institute, advised local industries and entrepreneurs to create markets in the country. This will enable them to tackle any supply shock by reducing dependence on other countries for raw materials and finished goods, he added.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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