The government has asked customs officers to begin 24x7 clearance at all customs points in order to tackle any disruption in trade due to the novel coronavirus outbreak in China.
The decision was taken amid concerns that the coronavirus outbreak could disrupt the supply of raw materials to Indian industries, which are dependent on Chinese imports, and also impact offtake in exports to China, said the Central Board of Indirect Taxes & Customs (CBIC).
The CBIC also noted that trade activity could see an immediate surge in case the spread of the virus is fully under control.
“CBIC has, therefore, decided to introduce 24x7 clearance at all customs formations,” said the circular. The steps were taken to deal with such emergent situation and will remain in place till May 2020, by which the CBIC expects the supply chains to be settled.
“Chief Commissioners are, therefore, requested to immediately workout the arrangement and deployment of sufficient number of officers on 24x7 basis at sea ports/Air Cargo stations/ICDs/CFSs etc. falling under their jurisdiction to tackle any incipient instance of congestion/surge,” said the February 20 circular. The CRCL labs will also work 24 hours to provide test results at the earliest, it said.
The death toll in China’s coronavirus outbreak has reached over 2,000, with a total of 74,576 confirmed cases.
China estimates that exports and imports will fall sharply in January and February due to the coronavirus outbreak. "The outbreak has posed severe challenges to China's current foreign trade development," Li Xingqian, director of the ministry's foreign trade department, told a news conference on Friday.
China is the world's largest exporter of goods, with shipments accounting for nearly 20 percent of China's gross domestic product (GDP), reportd Reuters. Analysts forecast the supply and demand shocks from the crisis could cut first-quarter GDP growth by up to half from 6% in the previous quarter, the report said.
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman last week said she would discuss with the PMO about the relief that could be offered to affected industry.
Crisil said any prolonged outbreak of the deadly coronavirus will impact Indian industry such as auto components, pharma bulk drugs, and agro chemicals.
First Published: IST