Imports plummeted by almost 10 percent

Imports plummeted by almost 10 percent

…effects can be seen in the narrowing trade deficits

The year 2023 witnessed a slight drop in Bhutan’s import bill, which stood at Nu 106 Billion (B), marking a vague decline of almost 10% from the previous year’s figures. In 2022, the country imported commodities worth Nu 118B.

The breakdown of Bhutan’s imports in 2023 showcases a pattern of diversification, with commodities worth Nu 8B from India, Nu 6.8B from China, and Nu 5.5B from Singapore. Additionally, Thailand contributed Nu 1.7B worth of imports, Hong Kong Nu 1.6B, and Bangladesh Nu 0.79B. Mexico emerged as the least exporting country to Bhutan with only Nu 3.7 Million (M) worth of commodities being imported by Bhutan during the year.

Regional analysis reveals that the customs checkpoints in Phuentsholing region accounted for the highest import value of Nu 77B, followed by Samdrup Jongkhar region with Nu 9B, Gelephu region with Nu 8B, and Samtse region with Nu 4B worth of commodities imported in 2023. In contrast, customs checkpoints in Thimphu region stood out for importing the fewest commodities amongst the regions, amounting to Nu 1.9B.

Imports from India saw a surge, while imports from countries other than India (COTI) saw a decrease. With more than 70% of goods imported from India, the import value was recorded at Nu 85B last year, which has increased slightly compared to the previous year. Commodities worth Nu 21B was imported from COTI in 2023, which was a decrease compared to the previous year.

Amongst the top ten commodities imported by Bhutan in 2023, other light oils and preparations (HSD) led the charts with imports amounting to Nu 9.9B. This was followed by processing units other than those of subheading at Nu 4B, motor spirit (gasoline) including aviation spirit (petrol) at Nu 3.3B, ferrous products obtained by direct reduction of iron ore at Nu 3.2B, and semi-milled or wholly milled rice at Nu 3B. The total value of other commodities imported was recorded at Nu 2.6B.

Additionally, imports of coke and semi-coke stood at Nu 2.5B, while smart phones and unused postage, revenue, or similar stamps of current or new issue each amounted to Nu 2.2B in 2023.

On the export front, Bhutan saw a positive trajectory in 2023, with commodities worth Nu 36B being exported, indicating a growth of almost 5% from the previous year. Of this total, more than Nu 27B worth of commodities was exported to India and Nu 8B to COTI.

The top ten commodities exported from Bhutan in 2023 included silicon, accounting for over 55% by weight and valued at Nu 13.7B, followed by ferro-silico-manganese at Nu 2.75B, and dolomite, not calcined or sintered, chips at Nu 2.7B. Boulders worth Nu 2.4B were also among the significant exports.

Further exports comprised pebbles, gravel, broken or crushed stone priced at Nu 1.6B, gypsum at Nu 1.5B, dolomite, not calcined or sintered, lumbs, and slabs at Nu 1B, and ordinary Portland cement at Nu 0.8B.

Phuentsholing region dominated the export scenario, followed by Samtse region, Samdrup Jongkhar region, Gelephu region, and Paro region, with Thimphu being the least contributor in terms of exports.

India continued to be the primary export destination for Bhutan, followed by Bangladesh. Notably, Italy emerged as the third-largest importer of Bhutanese commodities, followed by Nepal and China. Switzerland was in the lowest-ranking country trade, with only Nu 2M worth of commodities exported in 2023.

Meanwhile, Bhutan’s trade deficit, including electricity narrowed to Nu 55.5B in 2023, showcasing an improvement from Nu 61.9B in 2021. Additionally, the country’s balance of trade with India strengthened to Nu 42B in 2023, compared to Nu 35.9B in the previous year.

By Nidup Lhamo, Thimphu