Imports from China slumped 21 per cent year-on-year in volume in the one and a half months to February 15 amid supply disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, official data showed.
Businesses imported 36 lakh tonnes of products in the first seven months of fiscal 2019-20, down 19 per cent from a year earlier, according to the National Board of Revenue (NBR).
In monetary terms, imports also declined this year compared with the same period a year ago, said the revenue administration in a report on the possible impact of the coronavirus outbreak in the world's second largest economy.
Bangladesh's main export earner apparel and textile industry is highly dependent on China for cotton yarn and fabrics, textile fabrics and garments accessories.
"Alternative sources should be actively considered to import the raw materials of garments if the coronavirus outbreak disrupts supply from China," the report said.
It also suggested considering alternative sources to import parts of mobile phones to support the budding mobile handset assembling sector.
China is the biggest trading partner of Bangladesh and the biggest source for imports. The world's second largest economy accounted for more than a fifth of the country's imports of $56 billion in fiscal 2018-19, Bangladesh Bank data showed.
The NBR report comes amid growing concerns among businesses about potential supply disruption of raw materials, intermediate goods and other materials brought about by the coronavirus outbreak in December last year.
The deadly disease has already claimed more than 2,500 lives.
The NBR report assessed the possible effects of the coronavirus pandemic on export and imports by taking seven top-ranked inbound and outbound items to and from China.
Cotton yarn and woven textile fabrics top the list of the items coming to Bangladesh from China, followed by woven textile fabrics, knit textile fabrics and garment accessories.
Bangladesh imported nearly $3 billion worth of the items in fiscal 2018-19 from China, the report said. These products are used as raw materials by the $34 billion garment industry, which represents 84 per cent of the national export receipts.
The import from China was 41 per cent of the total import of cotton, cotton yarn/thread and cotton fabrics valued at $7 billion in the last fiscal year, BB data showed.
Of the four products, yarn is used in textile mills to make fabrics, while woven fabrics are used to make garments.
Manufacturers brought in $1.2 billion worth of cotton yarn in fiscal 2018-19 and half of last year's total imports already reached Bangladesh between the months of July last year and January this year, the report said.
In the seven months since July, businesses also imported half of the total woven textile and knit textile fabrics they had brought in in the last fiscal year.
The picture is also the same for garment accessory imports from China.
However, the import of mobile parts, which soared last year, may suffer as 27 per cent of last fiscal year's total imports amounting to $505 million came in the last seven months.
Bangladesh is importing ginger, garlic and cinnamon from Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Egypt, lowering the possibility of supply shortfall of the essential cooking ingredients, the NBR said.
In case of exports, garment is the main item shipped to China, followed by jute and jute goods as well as fishes, including crab and eel.
China is increasingly emerging as an export market for Bangladesh and half of the main exportable items destined for the country were shipped in the July-January period, the NBR said.
"Given the trend, there is no big risk to exports to China," the NBR said.