To facilitate faster clearance of consignments to and from China once coronavirus subsides, a 24x7 customs clearance facility will be available at all sea ports and airports till May 2020. The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) has written to all Chief Commissioners (Customs and Central Tax) asking them to immediately workout the arrangement and deployment of sufficient number of officers on 24×7 basis at sea ports / Air Cargo Stations / Inland Container Depot (ICDs)/ Container Freight Station (CFSs) etc falling in their jurisdiction to tackle any incipient instance of congestion/surge.
In the letter, it said due to ongoing shutdown in China on account of coronavirus outbreak, there is an apprehension of disruption in supply of raw materials/ inputs to our industrial units, which are dependent on these raw materials. There could also be a dip in offtake in exports to China.
"On the contrary, there is a strong likelihood of an immediate surge in the imports from and export to China, once the spread of the virus is brought fully under control.
"To handle such emergent situations, necessary steps need to be taken in advance. CBIC has, therefore, decided to introduce 24×7 clearance at all the Customs formations, so as to address any congestion or delay or surge on account of the prevailing conditions or cessation thereof," the CBIC said.
Currently, 24x7 customs clearance facility is available at designated sea ports and airports. With the recent directive, all customs formations would remain operational 24x7 till May 2020.
The CBIC said it expects the disruptions in the supply chains to settle by May.
"CRCL (Central Revenues Control Laboratory) labs would also function 24×7 so that test results could be made available at the earliest," it added.
China is a key trading partner of India. The bilateral trade between India and China has dipped to USD 87 billion in 2018-19 from USD 89.71 billion in 2017-18.
While India's exports stood at only USD 16.75 billion in 2018-19, imports aggregated at USD 70.31 billion. The trade deficit between the countries was USD 53.57 in 2018-19. India is pushing hard to boost exports to bridge this ballooning trade gap.
The death toll from China's coronavirus epidemic rose over 2,200, with over 75,400 confirmed cases.
The coronavirus outbreak originated in central China's Hubei province in December last year and has spread to several countries.