Price hike feared with Kodari road blocked

- SUMAN BASHYAL, Kathmandu
Price hike feared with Kodari road blocked

Aug 11, 2014-

Chinese goods imported from Khasa may become dearer with major festivals like Teej, Dashain and Tihar approaching and the Araniko Highway rendered inoperational by landslides at Sindhupalchok and a swollen Sunkoshi River, said traders.

With the main highway linking Kathmandu with Kodari on the northern border blocked, traders have been scouting for alternative routes. Imports are being brought in over the Rasuwa border point and also by sea through Kolkata port.

Most of the traders said that they had stopped importing goods from China for the time being. They added that if the Araniko Highway linking Kathmandu with the Tatopani border point remained blocked for an extended period, the increased freight charges resulting from using alternative routes would push up prices.

Demand for clothing and electronic items rise from mid-August as retailers from across the country throng Kathmandu’s wholesale markets like Mahabauddha, Asan, Indra Chowk, Wotu and Phasikeba looking for lower priced goods targeted at festive shoppers. According to traders, 60 percent of the clothes and electronics sold in the country are imported from China.

Figures released by the Customs Department show that 80 percent of the imports arriving overland, especially readymade garments and footwear products, are shipped through Tatopani Customs.

“We have not been able to import goods for more than a week, and if the highway remains closed for another two weeks, traders will have to use alternative routes which may mean higher prices for consumers,” said Bhim Poudel, member secretary of the Nepal Trans-Himalaya Border Commerce Association. “As festivals like Teej, Dashain and Tihar are approaching, we have to import around 100-150 truckloads of goods daily.”

According to the Tatopani Customs Office, 40-50 truckloads of goods worth Rs 50 million used to pass through daily during normal times, and this has completely halted due to the landslide.

Tatopani Customs Chief Mimanshu Adhikari said traders and customers both would be affected severely, in addition to revenue collection for the government, if the Araniko Highway was not restored soon. “Around 60-70 trucks are lying stranded at Tatopani Customs since the landslide buried the road,” he added.  

Importers used to bringing goods through the Tatopani border point are apprehensive about using the Rasuwa route or Kolkata port.

“We may have to channel our imports through Rasuwa or Kolkata port by paying higher freight charges which will surely affect retail prices,” said Ishwor Bhakta Shrestha, an importer of electronic items. He estimated that prices of electronics could jump 20-25 percent in such a situation.

Meanwhile, retailers are also worried about sales during the upcoming festive season due to the obstruction on the highway. “I am not upbeat about sales during this festive season as I am not sure if I will be able to get adequate stocks of clothes from importers,” said Kashiram Panthi, a retailer at Gucha Tol, adding that increased prices would drive away customers.

Published: 12-08-2014 09:52

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