Imports crash in April, as expected
The country's import decreased 62 per cent year-on-year to $1.95 billion in April as industrial production has almost come to a halt due to the ongoing shutdown to tackle the spread of the coronavirus.
The settlement of letters of credit (LCs), or generally known as import, also declined 53 per cent in April from a month earlier, when the figure stood at $4.17 billion, according to data from the central bank.
Both the LCs settlement for industrial raw materials and capital machinery nosedived last month, putting an adverse impact on the overall import.
A large part of the imports is mainly for the export-earning garment sector, but the industrial units had suspended their manufacturing last month for the countrywide shutdown to flatten the curve on coronavirus.
The rogue virus has harmed the export earnings as well last month.
In April, exports nosedived five times from the previous month and 82.9 per cent from a year earlier to just $520.01 million, according to data from the Export Promotion Bureau.
Besides, the import cost of petroleum products also reduced to a great extent due to a big price fall in the global market in the wake of the ongoing financial meltdown.
This has also helped the country count a lower import payment.
Oil prices in the global market plunged to an 18-year low of less than $20 a barrel last month.
The international marker Brent crude, however, rose more than 3 per cent to above $30 on May 14.
The opening of LCs, or better known as actual import orders, also saw a steep decline last month when the volume stood at $1.60 billion, down 70 per cent year-on-year.
This has indicated that imports may decrease further in the months ahead.
"Businesses showed reluctance in opening and settling LCs last month as their industrial units faced shutdown during the period," said Syed Mahbubur Rahman, managing director of Mutual Trust Bank.
Although the industrial units of the garment sector have opened, many other factories are yet to start to run.
Against the backdrop, import has not increased significantly this month, said Rahman, also an immediate past chairman of the Association of Bankers, Bangladesh, a forum of managing directors of banks.
He, however, said that imports in the ship-breaking industry have recently increased.
Imports will bounce back when the economy will reopen, according to him.
There is no great difference between the import of April and May, said Md Abdul Halim Chowdhury, managing director of Pubali Bank.
Back-to-back LCs for the garment sector have increased slightly, which is a positive thing for the economy.
Businesses now import food grains, petroleum products and some other food items; the import of other products have dropped remarkably.
Chowdhury, however, hopes that imports would get momentum as many foreign nations are now reopening their economies.
Banks usually gain a major of their profits from the import-export businesses, said another managing director of a bank on condition anonymity.
So, lenders' profit will contract in the coming days if international trade does not pick up, he said.
In a separate move, the central bank yesterday increased the loan ceiling for the member factories of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association and the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association from the export development fund (EDF).
As per the central bank instruction, the two associations' members will be allowed to get $30 million instead of the previous $25 million.
Exporters will get the support until December 31.
The central bank has recently extended the volume of the EDF to $5 billion from the previous $3.5 billion to help exporters fight the ongoing crisis.