Goods imported from China could be dearer by 20 percent during the upcoming Dashain festival if the customs points linking the northern neighbour are not opened in time, traders have said.
Nepal-China inland routes have been badly damaged by April 25 earthquake, and traders have started to import the goods via India’s Kolkata port, paying higher transportation costs.
If the situation remains same, the prices are bound to rise this Dashain as the higher transport costs are eventually passed on to the end consumers, they said.
Since the quake hit the country three and half months ago, the trade routes of Barabise- Tatopani -Khasa and Nuwakot-Rasuwagadhi-Kerung have remained closed.
Although Nepal Army and Chinese Army personnel have started to clear the Barabise- Tatopani -Khasa route, the officials are not sure whether the route could be used for normal transportation, given the risk of landslides. The Chinese authority has not yet opened the customs points on its side.
According to Nepal Trans-Himalayan Border Commerce Association, there are still 400-500 goods-loaded containers stranded along the border.
Bachhu Poudel, senior vice-president of the association, said they were preparing to import goods for the festivals via Kolkata. He said the imports through the sea-route would take at least two months to arrive and would significantly increase supply costs. The association said the Tatopani -Jure road segment was expected to be cleared within the next two weeks. However, the possibility of landslides still remains.
Paudel said the Chinese authority was still reluctant to open the border although route was about to be cleared. “The route can be reopened if the government initiates high-level talks with the Chinese,” he said.
Nepal imports various goods, including readymade garment, footwears, cosmetics, machinery parts and hardware products, fruits and electronics, from China.
Since the earthquake, China has allowed only eight trucks to pass through the Kerung border, while 450 containers entered Nepal through the Tatopani customs, according to the traders.
Arjun Prasad Gautam, general secretary of the association, said the market has already started facing the shortage of Chinese goods. “Prices of Chinese-made goods have started to go up steadily,” he said.
The Ministry of Commerce and Supply said the customs offices would come into operation soon after the roads are repaired. Jib Raj Koirala, joint-secretary at the ministry, said the Chinese authority was positive about reopening Tatopani customs the Araniko Highway is cleared. “However, we are unable to reinstate our customs office at Kerung although the Chinese side has resumed operation,” he said.
The Rasuwagadhi route was formally opened on December 2, 2014, for bilateral trade. Transactions rose to Rs5 billion in just four months after it the opening.