March has produced a record US$ 1.057 billion in exports, an achievement which is a first of its kind in the country’s history, the Central Bank said yesterday.
It said earnings from exports in March 2011 increased by 59.5% year-on-year, to $ 1,057 million reflecting increases in all major categories of exports.
“This is the first time that monthly export earnings surpassed the $ 1,000 million level,” the Bank said in releasing its latest external trade data.
It said expenditure on imports increased by 73.0% to $ 1,689 million in March 2011 whilst the trade deficit in March 2011 expanded to $ 632.4 million.
During the first quarter of 2011, the cumulative earnings from exports and expenditure on imports have increased by 54.3% to $ 2,721 million and 39.9% to $ 4,458 million, respectively.
The largest contribution to the growth in exports in March 2011 was from the industrial sector, led by significant increases in exports of textile and garments. Other key categories of industrial exports, except machinery and equipment, also performed well in March 2011. Exports of petroleum products increased by 361.1% reflecting higher volumes and prices of bunkering and aviation oil, compared to March 2010. Earnings from exports of rubber products increased by 75.6% during the month.
Agricultural exports, which accounted for 16.0% of the total export earnings in March 2011, increased by 40.3%, year-on-year, reflecting the sound performance by the tea, rubber, coconut and minor agricultural sectors, as they continued to gain higher prices in the international market. In line with the higher oil prices in the international market, the average export price of rubber increased by 70.5% year-on-year, to $ 5.13 per kg in March 2011. The average export price of tea remained high at $ 4.86 per kg during the month. Earnings from minor agricultural exports increased by 75% to $ 40.3 million in March, 2011 led by the high prices of cocoa products, sesame seeds, nutmeg and mace.
All major categories of imports increased in March 2011, reflecting higher prices in the international market and higher domestic demand. The largest contribution to the overall increase was from intermediate goods (60.1%), followed by consumer goods (21.3%). Expenditure on intermediate goods imports increased due to significant increases in petroleum and textiles and clothing imports. The average import price of crude oil stood at $ 111.31 per barrel in March 2011. Textile and clothing imports, which are used as inputs for apparel exports, increased by 115.5% during the month. Expenditure on imports of consumer goods increased mainly due to the higher expenditure on non-food consumer goods, particularly, motor vehicles ($ 90 million), medical and pharmaceutical products ($ 28 million) and electrical equipment ($ 14 million). Import expenditure on food and drink also increased due to higher expenditure incurred on imports of sugar ($ 51 million) and wheat ($ 52 million). Investment goods imports also increased in March 2011, due to substantial higher imports expenditure in machinery and transport equipment.
During March 2011, workers’ remittances increased by 34.9% to $ 503 million over that of 2010. The gross official reserves continued to remain above the targeted level and stood at $ 7.2 billion by end April 2011, without Asian Clearing Union (ACU) balances. Based on the previous 12-month average expenditure on imports of $ 1,273 million per month, the gross official reserves without ACU balances were equivalent to 5.6 months of imports.