Nepali traders import goods from China earlier for festival season over fear of COVID-related disruption

“Because of supply chain concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic and limited clearance of goods through Nepal-China border points over the coronavirus threat, we have to prepare in advance for importing needed goods as early as possible,” a Nepali trader said.

KATHMANDU, Sept. 5: Nayan Bahadur Pandit Chhetri has already taken delivery of 50 percent of footwear items imported from China for the upcoming festival season and expects to receive the remaining within a week.

In Nepal, traders are making orders earlier than usual for the October festival season amid concerns that the raging COVID-19 pandemic may once again impede the clearance and delivery of goods imported from China.

“We used to take delivery of goods meant for the Dashain festival till one or two weeks ahead of the festival in normal times,” Chhetri, a proprietor of Divis Enterprises which deals in China-made footwear, told Xinhua.

“Because of supply chain concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic and limited clearance of goods through Nepal-China border points over the coronavirus threat, we have to prepare in advance for importing needed goods at early as possible.”

The Dashain festival, the most important festival of Nepali Hindus and Nepali people in general in the Hindu-majority country, will be celebrated from Oct. 7 over victory of deities over devils, followed by another Hindu festival — Tihar, also known as a festival of lights.

Due to COVID-related restrictions, Nepali traders failed to bring in goods through the border points with China last year in time for the festivals.

Hundreds of containers carrying Nepal-bound goods were stranded on the Chinese side of the border last year, as the border points were closed for months to contain the coronavirus.

In Nepal, garments, footwear and electronic goods are in great demand during the Dashain and Tihar festivals, while China has been a major supplier.

Chhetri, who is also vice president of Nepal Trans Himalaya Border Commerce Association, said that he is also relying on the sea route via India for the import of most Chinese products due to limited clearance of goods through the land route, where the health protocols are being strictly enforced at the border points.

Nepal and China trade through two border points — Rasuwagadhi-Kerung and Tatopani-Zhangmu.

Naresh Katuwal, a footwear factory owner who relies on raw materials from China, has also moved earlier to secure raw materials for production targeting the Dashain festival through the Rasuwagadhi-Kerung border point.

“We have brought most of the raw materials much in advance compared with normal times,” said Katuwal, who is also president of Nepal National Traders’ Federation.

Landslides and floods sparked by monsoon heavy rains have also prompted Nepali traders to move earlier than usual, since roads connecting the capital city of Kathmandu with the border points are prone to the elements.

“It is not only me, many others traders also ordered goods from China earlier than usual,” said Katuwal.

Concerned over a potentially disrupted supply, some have even started to import goods for the winter season.

“Many traders are taking delivery of sweaters and jackets meant for the winter,” said Ashok Kumar Shrestha, president of Nepal Trans Himalaya Border Commerce Association.

Most of Nepali traders are increasingly importing goods from China by the sea route due to limited clearance of goods through the land border points at a time when the demand for some goods has risen sharply, according to traders.

“Bringing goods through the sea takes much longer time than through the land route for landlocked Nepal, so our preference is to take delivery through the land route,” Shrestha said. “But many traders are not taking the risk of taking delivery of goods through the land route at the moment.”

He stressed the need for increasing the clearance of goods through the land border points so as to boost bilateral trade with China ahead of the festival season in Nepal.

China is the second largest trading partner of Nepal after India. In the 2020-21 fiscal year that ended in mid-July, Nepal exported goods worth 1.01 billion Nepali rupees (8.67 million U.S. dollars) to China, while its imports from the northern neighbor stood at 233.92 billion rupees (1.99 billion U.S. dollars), according to Nepali central bank figures.