Xinjiang traders take a hit amid coronavirus epidemic

By Wang Jiamei Source:Global Times Published: 2020/2/15 16:09:13

Tourists visit the Xinjiang International Grand Bazaar in Urumqi, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, May 22, 2019.Photo:Xinhua

Traders in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region have largely seen their businesses falter amid the coronavirus epidemic as a result of the blockade on the China-Kazakhstan Khorgos International Border Cooperation Center and workers' inability to return.

Li Dongfeng, general manager of Khorgos Golden Eagle Plaza, told the Global Times on Saturday their import and export consignments, which used to comply through the China-Kazakhstan border free-trade zone, have been stopped.

"Normally at this time of the year, our trade volume could reach several hundred thousand yuan to 1 million yuan a day," Li said. "Now even normal business operations for hundreds of shops at the Golden Eagle Plaza, our downstream business, have been disrupted by the virus outbreak." 

Some trade companies have not been affected by the temporary closure of the free trade zone, but they cannot resume normal operation, either, as most of their workers haven't returned to work due to the nationwide prevention and control measures imposed in the wake of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, or COVID-19.

"We can still export agricultural products and daily necessities to neighboring countries like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia through Khorgos," Yu Chengzhong, chairman of the board of directors of Khorgos Jinyi International Trade Co, told the Global Times on Saturday. Khorgos is the largest land port in Xinjiang.

According to Yu, Chinese people may need to go through temperature checks and stay in quarantine for 14 days in bordering countries. "But overall they are still friendly to us," Yu said.

"Our biggest problem is most of our workers, including office staff and helpers, haven't returned to work due to the epidemic control measures," Yu noted. As a result, his business volume shrunk by 80 to 90 percent in recent days.

According to Khorgos customs statistics, in the first quarter of 2019, the cargo trade volume through Khorgos on the China-Kazakhstan border reached 8.65 million tons, up 17 percent year-on-year, while total trade value through the port city jumped 32 percent to 26.79 billion yuan during the same period.

Both Li and Yu are anticipating business will restore normalcy in March. "I was told the free trade zone will be closed until the end of this month. Hope business could be resumed next month," Li said.


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