China imports to suffer amid China virus outbreak

Carlo Lorenciana

IMPORTS from China are likely to drop as the potential economic damage of the 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV ARD) outbreak further widens.

However, exporters in Cebu said the health crisis is unlikely to derail export demand from China, one of Cebu’s top markets.

“As a matter of fact, if we do not have deaths due to the 2019-nCoV ARD in the country, the rest of the world will consider the Philippines as an import option instead of China, especially for food and agricultural products,” Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (Philexport) of Cebu executive director Fred Escalona told SunStar Cebu Friday, Jan. 31, 2020.

Conrado Abarintos, collection division chief at Bureau of Customs-Port of Cebu, said it is too early to predict whether China’s virus epidemic will bring down Chinese import volume to Cebu.

“We recently saw a decrease in volume not because of the 2019-nCoV ARD but due to the one month holiday in China from Jan. 25, Chinese New Year. Business trends feel the low import volume during this period,” the customs official told SunStar Cebu.

China contributes more than 50 percent of the tax collection of BOC-Cebu from imports.

Abarintos was hoping that the outbreak, which originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, would not dampen imports growth.

“I can’t make a projection yet for February. March imports will recover from the low volume in February. It is hoped that importation will not be affected as China contributes significantly to our collection efforts,” he said.

But Philexport’s Escalona seemed to be pessimistic.

“On the side of imports, we are also buying a lot of stuff from China and my personal view here is that imports from China will drop drastically being the source of the 2019-nCoV ARD ,” he said.

But exports growth might be sustained, Escalona said.

“We will be a preferred country as a source of goods, especially food, by the Chinese market. The 2019-nCoV ARD has little effect on Philippine exports as yet unless we have an outbreak here in the country,” he said.

Cebu’s exports to mainland China totaled US$8.66 million from January to November 2019, making mainland China the city’s fourth largest export buyer.

The 2019-nCoV ARD has sickened 9,692 people in China, with the death toll rising to 213.

The World Health Organization has already declared the outbreak as an international emergency as the death toll continues to rise.

The rapid spread of the respiratory illness has prompted businesses and factories in China to shut down, and airlines around the world have canceled flights, hitting the global tourism industry.