Although the outbreak of the novel coronavirus and ensuing containment measures have had a devastating impact on the overall economy of Nepal, the export trade remained better in the first month of the current fiscal year as compared to the same period last year. The statistics maintained by the Department of Customs under the Ministry of Finance show that the country's export trade increased by 8.86 per cent to Rs. 9.62 billion in the month of Shrawan (July-August) this year compared to the figures of the same period last year. The country was able to export a variety of commodities valued at only Rs. 8.83 billion in the first month of the last fiscal year. It should be taken as an encouraging indication even when the pandemic has disrupted most of the economic activities in the country over the last few months. The nation has achieved such progress in the export business despite various challenges, including the halt of the export of palm oil to India.
Citing its policy changes, the southern neighbour has barred Nepal from exporting palm oil over the past couple of months. This oil is not a Nepali product. However, Nepali traders used to export it to India with at least 30 per cent value addition. Palm oil was among the major exportable items, with the country exporting the oil worth Rs. 1.75 billion in the first month of the last fiscal year alone. The export of soybean oil grew by six fold in the first month of the current fiscal year compared to the same period last year. The country exported soybean oil worth Rs. 2.27 billion in the review period while its transaction stood at just Rs. 450 million in the same month last year. Coffee, tea, cardamom and carpet textiles were other products that Nepal exports to different countries. During the review period, the country exported coffee and black tea worth Rs. 10 million and Rs. 763 million, respectively. Similarly, cardamom, and carpet and textiles worth Rs. 476 million and Rs. 682 million, respectively, were exported in the same month.
But Nepal's import trade dwindled by 19.60 per cent to Rs. 85.8 per cent during the review period. The country imported goods and products worth Rs. 106.72 billion in the first month of the last fiscal year. With an increase in export and a drop in import, the country's trade deficit went down by 22.17 per cent to Rs. 76.18 billion during the first month of the current fiscal year. It may be recalled here that the country had witnessed a wide trade deficit of Rs. 97.88 billion in the same period last year. However, the share of export and import in total foreign trade stood at 10.82 per cent and 89.92 per cent respectively during the review period. The country imported the petroleum products, including cooking gas, worth Rs. 6.35 billion, crude soybean oil (Rs. 2.56 billion) and crude sunflower oil (Rs. 1.04 billion) in the first month of the current fiscal year. However, it decreased 17.42 per cent to Rs. 95.42 billion in the review period. Despite the prohibitory orders in place in different parts of country, the foreign trade is now going smoothly. As the national economy is now at a critical situation, the authorities concerned must make extra efforts aimed at expanding export trade and import substitution.