September 22: Foreign trade through Birgunj customs has increased by two-thirds in the last five years. Birgunj customs is considered as the main gateway in terms of import and export of goods. According to the Birgunj Customs Office, foreign trade has increased by 68 percent in the last fiscal year 2077/78 as compared to the fiscal year 2073/74.
Chief Customs Officer Harihar Poudel said that the size of trade from Birgunj Customs has increased compared to the past years. He said that the foreign trade has gone up due to the increase in price annually.
Poudel said that the volume of foreign trade has also increased in recent years as the average commodity price has risen by an average of 10 percent. In the last fiscal year 2077/78, goods worth Rs 313.24 billion have been imported and exported from Birgunj customs. This amount was Rs 185.42 billion in FY 2073/74.
The data shows that the volume of export has also increased along with the import from Birgunj. Last year, amount of export increased four times compared to Rs 13.5 billion five years ago. According to the customs data, goods worth more than Rs 52 billion were exported through this checkpoint in the fiscal year 2077/78.
Fuel, vehicles and industrial raw materials, electrical appliances are imported through this checkpoint. The export products include refined edible oil, juice, jam, clothes, shoes and other items.
Last year, refined soybean oil and sunflower oil were exported in high quantities. Earlier, exporters focused on soybean and sunflower oil after India imposed a ban on refined palm oil. According to the customs office, the export of palm oil has resumed after India eased the ban.
Poudel says that actual trade has not increased as expected from the Birgunj checkpoint despite its prime location and infrastructure. “The trade is seen relatively high due to rising consumer culture and rising commodity prices. However, the expected trade from this checkpoint has not taken place yet,” he told New Business Age. He further said that trade had also declined in the past two fiscal years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Except for the fiscal year 2076/77, trade seems to have increased comparatively in all the other years.
The government's policy to discourage import that year and the decline in global trade due to the pandemic had also affected Nepal's foreign trade.
During the Madhesh movement of 2072, the importers of Birgunj had gone to Bhairahawa and Biratnagar. Former president of the Birgunj Chamber of Commerce and Industry Pradip Kumar Kedia says that the businessmen who changed their checkpoints due to the strike and blockade for six months have not yet returned back to old ways. “Entrepreneurs have already built their infrastructure there after moving to the other side and it is not easy to leave it,” said Kedia.
Poudel also said that the importers of vehicles and Indian readymade garments went to Bhairahawa from Birgunj. He also informed that the overseas trade entering from Birgunj is concentrated towards Biratnagar. Moreover, he said that they are focusing on reducing time and expenses by facilitating foreign trade through the Birgunj checkpoint.
“We are trying to reduce cost and time required for import and export by creating integrated checkpoint in Birgunj along with the Indian side. The customs administration is making continuous efforts to reduce the cost of trade through Birgunj checkpoint,” he said.
According to Kedia, it is natural for importers to go through the checkpoints which make trade easier.