China’s imports fall as Covid outbreaks, lockdown hit demand


China’s imports shrank on-year in March for the first time in nearly two years, official data showed Wednesday, hit by coronavirus lockdowns and weakening consumer demand.

The world’s second-largest economy has struck to a strict zero-Covid strategy as it tries to contain outbreaks fueled by the Omicron variant in recent months.

The economic cost, however, have mounted – the waves of infections and resulting lockdowns have kept consumers at home, halted business operations and snarled supply chains.

Imports dropped 0.1% from a year ago, according to data from China’s Customs Administration – the first such decline since August 2020, in the early phase of the pandemic.

The figure was much lower than the forecast from a Bloomberg poll of economists, and a far cry from the 15.5% growth for the first two months this year.

“Some unexpected factors in the international and domestic environment have gone beyond our anticipation,” said Customs Administration spokesman Li Kuiwen.

“Achieving the goal of stabilising foreign trade will require greater effort.”

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