February exports down, imports up
Merchandise exports fell in February, cutting short 15 straight months of year-on-year growth, while imports sustained a double-digit increase to keep the balance of trade in goods at a deficit, preliminary data of the Philippine Statistics Authority released yesterday showed.
The value of Philippine-made goods sold abroad last February declined by 1.8 percent to $4.659 billion from $4.743 billion a year ago, the first time that exports dropped since November 2016.
In a statement, state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) attributed the decline in exports that month to “lower receipts from agro-based products, manufactures and petroleum products.” For instance, it said, “among agro-based products, exports of coconut products fell by 50.8 percent from a high of 66.9-percent growth in 2017.”
“This is due to the lingering effects of tropical storms that hit Visayas and Mindanao during the latter part of 2017 as well as the substitution of coconut oil with more competitively priced palm oil in some markets,” Neda Undersecretary and officer-in-charge Rosemarie G. Edillon explained.
The value of imports in the same month jumped by 18.6 percent to $7.724 billion in February from $6.511 billion a year ago.
As of February, imports have been posting double-digit growth for five consecutive months.
As such, the total external trade in goods in February grew by 10 percent to $12.38 billion from $11.26 billion in the same month last year.
However, as imports exceeded exports, the balance of trade in February ended at a deficit of $3.06 billion, wider than the $1.77 billion posted in February last year.
The trade deficit had brought the current account—the total value of exported goods and services, minus the total value of imports—to a deficit which, in turn, weakened the peso.
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas earlier reported that the current account swung to a $2.5-billion deficit in 2017, the biggest since 1999.
Last year, the country’s chief economist, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia, said the sustained wider trade-in-goods deficit was “not good, but transitory and manageable.”
Economic managers had said that as the Duterte administration rolled out its ambitious “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program alongside expectations of sustained strong economic growth, demand for imports would remain robust in the near term.
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