The country’s trade deficit widened by 54.1 percent in April to $4.773 billion from the $3.097-billion gap a year ago, as the 22.8-percent growth in imports outpaced the 6-percent expansion in exports, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show Thursday.
Merchandise exports rose 6 percent in April $6.128 billion from $5.78 billion a year ago, while imports jumped 22.8 percent to $10.90 billion from $8.878 billion.
The figures brought total export earnings from January to April to $25.55 billion, up 8.9 percent from $23.457 billion a year earlier. Imports in the fourth-month period climbed 26.7 percent to $44.22 billion from $34.90 billion.
The trade deficit in the first four months also jumped 63 percent to $18.667 billion from $11.442 billion in the same period last year.
Coconut products contributed $164 million or 47 percent of the incremental export sales in April, driven by exports of coconut oil which grew 2.5 times from a year ago, according to the Department of Trade and Industry.
The DTI said coconut products also accounted for a quarter of the incremental $2.1-billion export sales in the first four months.
It said based on the PSA’s preliminary data, the April exports were 14.5-percent higher than the pre-pandemic average from 2017 to 2019.
Electronics remained the country’s biggest export, accounting for 59.8 percent of total exports in the first four months.
Top imports in April were electronic products amounting to $2.56 billion; mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials valued at $2.01 billion; and transport equipment amounting to $916.80 million.
Michael Ricafort, chief economist of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., said that on a monthly basis, the growth of exports and imports slowed down from the March level due to higher input costs/prices and some lockdowns in China over the past three months that reduced global trade activities.
“However, both imports and exports are still near the previous month’s respective record highs, nevertheless, as the economy re-opened further towards greater normalcy with the lowest Alert Level 1 in Metro Manila and in other areas,” he said.
Ricafort said the trade deficit could hover at the $4 billion to $5 billion levels each month as long as global oil/commodity prices remained elevated.
The country incurred a trade deficit of $43.226 billion in 2021, up from the $24.6-billion shortfall in 2020.