By Aashish Mishra Kathmandu, Jan. 7: While the COVID-19 restrictions have been painful for many businesses, they have actually helped boost the domestic garment industry. The restrictions, and the border closure they entailed, cut down on foreign imports and led to an increase in the consumption of domestically produced clothing, according to Chandi Prasad Aryal, president of Garment Association Nepal (GAN). “Imports of clothes decreased by around 36 per cent in the first four months of the current fiscal year because of various prohibitions induced by the coronavirus and, in that time, we saw an encouraging increase in consumption of garments produced by Nepali factories,” Aryal said. Aryal informed that Nepal usually bought readymade clothing from India, China and various other countries. But this could not be done when our international borders were shut, thereby orienting the customers towards nationally-made products. The border closure also hampered the factories’ ability to bring in raw materials. However, this did not affect their production and output, Aryal said. “Raw materials, once imported, last for three to four months. That is why our industries were able to run in full capacity throughout the nationwide and regional shutdowns,” he said. But the restrictions have now been lifted and the business environment has largely returned to the pre-pandemic state, worrying local garment businesses that the market will once again be dominated by foreign apparels. Therefore, GAN has asked the government to introduce measures to protect and promote domestic industries and tighten imports. “The government should consult with entrepreneurs, factory operators and other stakeholders to draft necessary policies. It could also, perhaps, put tariffs or tax schemes in place for imports to incentivise people to buy ‘made in Nepal’ garments,” he said, adding, “The customers also need to be more conscious on the matter.” Aryal said that supporting domestic industries was in the interest of the nation.