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Trade gap widens as imports increase for first time in 22 months

THE COUNTRY’S trade-in-goods deficit widened in February as imports grew for the first time in 22 months and exports contracted albeit at a slower pace that same month.

Merchandise imports grew by 2.7% to $7.60 billion in February following a 12.1% annual decline in January, preliminary data by the Philippine Statistics Authority showed.

The import tally for February was bigger than $8.4 billion and $7.4 billion in January 2021 and February 2020, respectively. However, the value of imports that month was the lowest since June 2020’s $7 billion.

Nevertheless, February marked the first expansion in imports in 22 months or since April 2019 when it posted an annual growth of 2.9%.

Meanwhile, merchandise exports declined by 2.3% to $5.31 billion, lower than the 4.8% contracted recorded in January.

This brought the trade deficit to $2.29 billion for February, bigger than the $1.97-billion gap in the same month last year, but smaller than the $2.9-billion gap posted in the previous month.

Year to date, imports of goods amounted to $16 billion, down by 5.6% compared with the $16.96 billion in 2020’s comparable months.

Likewise, exports were down 3.6% to $10.83 billion on a cumulative basis compared with $11.23 billion the previous year.

These figures were below the Development Budget Coordination Committee’s growth targets of 5% and 8% for exports and imports this year.

That brought the year-to-date trade balance to a $5.17-billion deficit, smaller than the $5.72-billion shortfall in the same two months last year.

The country’s total — the sum of export and import goods — was $12.91 billion in February, up 0.6% year on year. For the first two months of the year, total trade amounted to $26.83 billion, down 4.8% from $28.19 billion a year ago. — L. O. Pilar

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