Sars measures affecting sourcing, transport and inspection of products Major exporters in eastern China expect Sars to cut the volume of shipments this year by more than 30 per cent. A recent Ministry of Commerce survey shows that manufacturers are less confident than official forecasts for their business prospects. 'Some enterprises forecast annual export volume will be reduced by more than 30 per cent. Some report that potential customers have already scrapped intended orders,' said the survey, which covered 28 firms in Shanghai and Anhui and Jiangxi provinces. The poll said orders booked at the end of last year and early this year were stable, but many firms were pessimistic. 'The impact has been small for enterprises meeting export contracts. If the epidemic is not brought under effective control in the short term, it will be difficult to forecast the impact on exports,' the survey said. Some firms had reported problems with sourcing, transport and inspection of their products because of the strict controls on intra-provincial movements imposed to control Sars. Agricultural products such as corn, tea and frozen meat were more affected than electronics and machinery because they required mass labour, which the government has discouraged, it said. To help exporters, the ministry has called for prompt payment of tax rebates, more online trading and streamlined customs service. The release of the survey came as Shanghai's party secretary, Chen Liangyu, told the city's exporters that boosting foreign trade was the key to economic development. The city has also increased government spending to prop up the economy. Shanghai's exports for January-April jumped by 45 per cent year on year to US$13.76 billion, official figures showed. The city's ports handle a quarter of the nation's imports and exports. Analysts said the impact of Sars on mainland exports had been minimal, although some industries had been badly hurt. 'The Sars epidemic had only a small impact on China's exports because Sars is affecting the migration of people, but not really the transport itself,' said Christophe Souquet, China risk manager for the French credit insurance company, Coface. Industries which require inspection of goods - such as toys, furniture and textiles - have been hurt most since many foreign companies have banned travel to the mainland, he said. Meanwhile, Hong Kong is expecting a 3.3 per cent growth in exports this year, down from the forecast of 4 per cent, according to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council. The council said exports might contract in the third quarter, reflecting the decline in overseas orders due to the impact of the Sars outbreak. The council said the latest forecast was partly based on a survey in mid-May in which 314 exporters and manufacturers - from the electronics, clothing, toys, watch and clock and jewellery industries were interviewed on the impact of Sars on their business. The council's chief economist, Edward Leung, said: 'In our survey, 65 per cent of the respondents revealed a decline in their export orders, while 34 per cent saw no change in orders.'