Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN) – The country’s overall import orders fell by 27.30 percent in the first half of May as importers are following a ‘wait and see policy’ ahead of the national budget for fiscal 2009-10.

Fresh letters of credit (LCs) for import worth US$ 717.78 million were opened between May 1 and May 14, as against $987.34 million during the same period last year, according to the central bank statistics, released on Wednesday.

“Opening of fresh LCs for imports fell drastically during the period as most of the importers preferred to wait until the announcement of next budget beginning July next,” a senior official of the Bangladesh Bank (BB), the country’s central bank, told BBN in Dhaka.

Opening of LCs for essentials, including sugar, edible oil, pulses and onion, fell in term value during the period against the corresponding period of the previous year, he added.

The central bank of Bangladesh has taken measures to increase supply of nine essential 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, dates and fruits.

“We expect that import of the essentials would go up shortly following the lower interest rates on import financing for the essential items,” another BB official said.

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

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

BBN/SS/SI/AD-21May09-9:42 am (BST)