In December last year, reports started to emerge that a Coronavirus that specialists had never before seen in humans had begun to spread among the population of Wuhan, a large city in the Chinese province of Hubei.
Since then, the virus has spread to other countries, both in and outside Asia, leading authorities to describe this as an outbreak. At the end of last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the situation to be a public health emergency.
To date, the death toll in China due to novel Coronavirus has crossed 1,000 and 42,638 confirmed cases have been reported, while 319 cases have already been detected in 24 other countries across the globe.
Health scare apart, the outbreak of Coronavirus seems to have impacted businesses worldwide and Bangladesh is not an exception. Heavily dependent on China for the raw materials, garment makers in the country are already apprehensive of supply chain disruption that would impact the industry adversely.
“We’re really worried, as the country is highly dependent on China. We’re so far ok. But after the vacation (Chinese New Year), supply of goods and raw materials from China may be trimmed,” stated Anwar ul Islam Chowdhury, President of the Bangladesh Chamber of Industries (BCI) and Chairman of Evince Group (a leading apparel manufacturer) speaking to the media, adding, “To my mind, local woven sector may be the worst victim, as it is highly dependent on imports from China.”
According to Bangladesh’s central bank, the Bangladesh Bank, China supplies mostly fabrics and garment accessories to local manufacturers while more than 40 per cent of its textile and textile-related goods and nearly 30 per cent machinery come from China.
The apprehensions on adverse impact to business are no longer restricted to the garment industry with those in e-commerce expressing fears of shipment disruption and slump in business under a prolonged Coronavirus impact as major online products are imported from China for the growing local market.
“The situation seems grave as our products sold on e-commerce platforms are mainly sourced from China. Their holiday has been extended. If the deadly Coronavirus outbreak persists and spreads further, local e-commerce business will be in dire crisis,” stated Vice President of E-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (E-CAB) Mohammad Sahab Uddin, adding, “Shipment is temporarily snapped now. Air shipment is also to be stopped soon. So, supply of products from China might be affected in a lingering scenario.”
As per E-CAB, around 60 per cent of the local e-commerce products, especially electronic gadgets are imported from China while fashion products marketed in the online platforms are mostly imported from China, India and Pakistan, say industry insiders.
The market of toys and amusement-related online products is also dominated by China.
Meanwhile, as per some reports, fear is also rising among the end-users of being afflicted with the deadly virus through product parcels that may have come in from China, which led some e-commerce players to come out with clarifications.
“There’s no evidence that indicates cross border packages or their contents carry any risks. The company is monitoring the situation and will cooperate with relevant authorities. In addition, WHO has also said parcels from China are safe,” maintained Bangladesh’s largest e-commerce company Daraz Bangladesh in a statement, adding “The only drawback is due to Chinese New Year. Chinese sellers are on holiday and the holiday has been extended because of the Coronavirus. For this reason, the delivery timeline of cross border products has doubled. Currently, 35 to 40 working days are required as opposed to normal delivery time of 15 to 20 days.”
Meanwhile, the Chief Executive Officer of AjkerDeal.com (one of the popular e-commerce sites), Fahim Mashroor, has not ruled out manipulation and malpractice by some players taking advantage of the Coronavirus scare.
“But some small traders could take the opportunity of the virus unfairly, citing unavailability of Chinese goods,” explained Fahim.