Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN)- The country’s overall imports fell by nearly 15 per cent in April over that of the previous month as importers slowed down opening letters of credit ahead of the budget for fiscal 2009-10 beginning in July next, officials said.

“The import fell in April as most of the importers preferred to wait until the announcement of next budget, which might offer some changes in tax structure,” a senior official of the Bangladesh Bank (BB), the country’s central bank, told BBN in Dhaka on Saturday.

The overall import came down to US$1.569 billon in April last from $1.845 billion in March, according to the central bank provisional statistics.

“The import of some essential items, including edible oils, dropped during the period due to higher prices in the global market,” the BB official added.

He also said the opening letters of credit (LCs) for imports fell in April over that of the previous two months.

Import LCs worth US$ 1.754 billion and $1.902 billion were opened in February and March respectively. But import LCs worth $1.696 billion were executed in April last.

“The import of cars both new and reconditioned has dropped during the period due mainly to upcoming national budget,” another BB official told the FE, adding that the overall import might pick up after the announcement of the budget next month.

The BB official also said the central bank has taken measure to increase supply of nine essentials food items before and during the holy month of Ramadan through capping interest rates on import financing for the essentials to a maximum of 12 percent from 13 percent.

The essentials are: edible oil, gram, sugar, pulses, peas, onion, spices, date and fruits.

Imports of essentials, including rice, edible oil and pulses, fell in terms of both quantity and value in April over that of the previous month of this year, the BB officials said.

During the period, the import of rice declined by 24,000 tons to 4,000 tons, edible oil by 37, 000 tons to 37,000 tons and pluses by 53,000 tons to 42,000 tons in term of quantity, the BB’s data showed.

On the other hand, the settlement of LCs for imports of rice dropped by $6.16 million to $1.36 million, edible oil by $46.21 million to $23.94 million, pulses by $13.14 million to $19.45 million and onion by $1.74 million to 13.46 million.

Bankers, however, said the importers are now following ‘wait and see policy’ for opening of new LCs for imports ahead of the new national budget for fiscal 2009-2010.

“Most of the importers are informing us that they will open new LCs for imports after announcement of the next budget,” a senior official of a leading private commercial bank told BBN in Dhaka.

He also said some imports are also observing the government’s position about import of essential items using the state-owned trading corporation of Bangladesh (TCB).

The government has already announced that the essential items like edible oils, onion and pulses will be imported through TCB to meet the growing demand of the essentials in the local market.

BBN/SS/SI/AD-17May09-12:21 am (BST)