There is an increase in import of essentials by 15% compared to other normal times to ensure stocking up
Despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in the region for the period March 2020 – May 15, 2021, Bhutan imported Nu 52.50bn worth of goods from India.
Meanwhile, it exported Nu 24.93bn worth of goods to India.
According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA), the situation of export and import is as difficult and severe as managing the pandemic. It is estimated that the shipping costs from China to America have tripled.
“The supply shortages are real besides increasing costs the world over. The current increased wave of the pandemic in the region has almost brought all such activities to a standstill,” said MoEA Minister Loknath Sharma.
The Lyonpo said that Bhutan is no exception in this trading link.
“We are consistently facilitating and monitoring to ensure an uninterrupted supply of goods and services (import and export) at all times,” he said, however, adding that the import value has really increased after the Covid cases increased in India.
The Lyonpo shared that from January until May 2021, total imports amounted to Nu 30.64bn translating to a 15% increase over the same period of 2020, and most import being essential commodities including raw materials for industries.
“This could be seen as import increase for stocking up essentials; however, the overall average import during the pandemic has not increased,” the Lyonpo said.
From March 2020 to May 15, 2021, the imports from India amounted to Nu 52.50bn whereas import in 2019 was Nu 56.65bn. Based on these trade statistics, imports during the pandemic have decreased.
Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Lyonpo said that for the period March 2020 – May 15, 2021, Bhutan was able to export goods worth Nu 24.93bn excluding electricity.
According to MoEA, in 2019, total exports excluding electricity amounted to Nu 31.2bn. Taking the comparative year like 2019, there has been a decrease of around 20-25% in total exports.
The Lyonpo said that the challenges to export are mainly on account of the lockdown in domestic and export markets, increase in transportation prices, hindrances in the supply chain of raw materials, and the irregular supply of workers, among others.
“While the pandemic has caused disruptions in trade flows, the overall trade performance indicates strong resilience to external shocks,” the Lyonpo said, adding that the MoEA is continuously working with all stakeholders both within and outside the government to ensure that exports are facilitated.
According to the MoEA, for the year 2020, the top exports are ferro-silicon, boulders, iron and steel, cement, cardamom, pebbles and gravel, gypsum, and dolomite, among others.
“The top imports are POL (Petroleum, Oil, and Lubricant) products, rice, passenger cars, and motor vehicle, mobile phones, raw materials for industries, airplane, and electrical equipment, among others.”
Bhutan’s trading partners for 2020 were India, France, Bangladesh, China, Thailand, Singapore, Germany, Japan, Nepal, and the UAE.
Economic Minister Loknath Sharma shared that for the possible lockdown in the country, Bhutan is importing essentials and other consumer goods including industry raw materials.
“Essentials are mainly food consumables like milk, butter, cheese, pharmaceutical products, cereals/baby foods, oil, rice, etc. including toiletries and PoL products.”
Lyonpo said that there is an increase in import of essentials by 15% compared to other normal times to ensure stocking up.
“The ministry is prepared, though not looking forward to another lockdown, as every lockdown is a painful event to the country and the people. However, preparedness is at its best to ensure adequate market supply,” he said.
Kinley Yonten from Thimphu