Exports rebounded with a 31.6-percent growth in March, led by strong demand for electronics amid the global economic recovery arising from the COVID-19 vaccinations, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show.
“At $6.68 billion, the March 2021 exports were even higher than the $6.03 billion earned in March 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Department of Trade and Industry said Friday.
The figures put the country’s export growth in the first quarter in the positive territory at 7.6 percent.
Electronics, which made up 61 percent of all exports, grew by 25 percent compared to March last year. Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez attributed this growth to chip demand due to upgrades to IT systems, new smartphones, auto demand and automation.
“Factories across the US, Europe, and Asia are ramping up production. And since the Philippines is part of global value chains, our exports recover as more countries reopen,” Lopez said.
“I hope this trend continues so our exporters can hire more people,” Lopez said.
All the top 10 major commodity groups in terms of value recorded annual increases, led by other mineral products (195.8 percent), chemicals (159.8 percent), and other manufactured goods (115.7 percent).
Coconut oil was the 10th most exported commodity group and the top agricultural export. Sales of the product increased by 7.8 percent to $89.05 million. A 2020 study by the Department of Science and Technology found that virgin coconut oil can help combat COVID-19 symptoms and prevent mild cases from becoming severe.
Meanwhile, imports also increased by 16.6 percent in March to $9.10 billion, after registering a downward trend from May 2019 to January 2021. In February 2021, the annual increase was recorded at 8.9 percent.
Total imports in the first quarter amounted to $25.56 billion, up 3.2 percent from the import value of $24.76 billion in the same period of 2020.
“March trade figures showed sharp gains for both exports and imports due in large part to base effects... Demand for electronics and subcomponents will likely remain high given the global chip shortage a development that could bode well for this sector in the coming months,” ING Bank Manila senior economist Nicholas Mapa said in a report.
Mapa said despite the sharp swings for both exports and imports, the overall trade deficit stayed modest at $2.4 billion, which should translate into a current account surplus for the Philippines, lending support to the peso.
“We expect the base effect-induced expansion for both exports and imports to continue in the coming months with the Philippine economy relatively more open in 2021 compared to last year. Demand for electronics components given the global chip shortage may also help lift demand for the export sector,” Mapa said.
The country’s total external trade in goods in March 2021 amounted to $15.78 billion, up 22.5 percent from a year earlier. The balance of trade in goods in March 2021 resulted in a trade deficit of $2.41 billion.