Trade gap worsens
The trade-in-goods deficit widened to a record $4.2 billion in October as the double-digit jump in imports, especially of food products as the government eased importation procedures to ease high domestic prices, outpaced exports growth, the government reported Tuesday.
Preliminary Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data showed the value of imported goods that entered the country in October climbed 21.4 percent to $10.3 billion from $8.5 billion during the same month last year.
In a report, the PSA said all top 10 import commodities posted growth that month: Cereal and cereal preparations, up 52.3 percent year-on-year; mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials, up 45.4 percent; other food and live animals, up 33.6 percent; telecommunication equipment, up 26.7 percent; miscellaneous manufactured articles, up 25.4 percent; plastics, up 24.9 percent; industrial machinery, up 21.5 percent; transport equipment, up 18.4 percent; electronic products, up 14.8 percent, and iron and steel, up 7.8 percent.
President Duterte in September issued an administrative order making it easier and faster to import food as headline inflation hit more than nine-year highs partly due to domestic supply constraints, especially of rice.
The government was also ramping up infrastructure spending under its ambitious “Build, Build, Build” program such that imports of capital goods were on the rise.
This brought imports from January to October to $90.9 billion, up 16.8 percent from $77.9 billion a year ago.
Meanwhile, merchandise exports also grew in October, but by a slower 3.3 percent to $6.1 billion from $5.9 billion last year.
The PSA said shipments to foreign buyers of copper concentrates, machinery and transport equipment, fresh bananas, other manufactured goods, miscellaneous manufactured articles, metal components, as well as electronic products increased that month, but Philippine-made electronics equipment and parts, chemicals, and ignition wiring set and other wiring sets used in vehicles, aircraft and ships declined.
As of end-October, total goods exports contracted 1.2 percent to $57.1 billion from $57.7 billion a year ago.
The 10-month trade-in-goods deficit thus swelled to $33.9 billion from $20.1 billion a year ago.
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