Imports up due to base effects, says Neda

By Cai U. Ordinario, Business Mirror

Posted at Jan 25 2011 10:27 PM | Updated as of Jan 26 2011 06:27 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Despite imports growth exceeding official government targets in 2010, the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) said this may only be due to base effects, higher prices and demand for products that will help feed into the country’s exports in the coming months.

Neda National Planning and Policy Staff director Myrna Clara Asuncion said, however, that an increase of 35.3% in November imports would not immediately translate into higher exports in the first quarter this year. Usually imports are fed into exports in a period of one to three months, depending on the export.

Asuncion said the uncertainty of the global recovery and the fact that the global economy is still “normalizing” may affect the demand and the prices of both imports and exports. She said the global economy is seen extending to around the first semester of 2011.

“You cannot get a trend based on the past three years because growth has been erratic. There are sources of volatilities like prices and the uncertainty of the global economic recovery,” Asuncion said, speaking in Filipino.

The country’s merchandise imports in November 2010 increased to $4.944 billion from $3.655 billion in November 2009, according to the latest External Trade Performance report released by the National Statistics Office (NSO) on Tuesday.

The November 2010 import growth was the second highest increase posted last year. The highest import growth was 38.92% growth recorded in March 2010.

The NSO said the country’s total import bill for the January-to-November 2010 period increased to $49.772 billion by 27.1%, from $39.155 billion in the same 11-month period in 2009.

The top-five gainers for the month of November were transport equipment with a growth of 109.9%; cereals and cereals preparations with 84.8%; organic and inorganic chemicals, 74.6%; plastics in primary and nonprimary forms, 61.2%; and industrial machinery and equipment, 46.8%.

However, the imports that accounted for the lion’s share of the total bill for November were electronic products, at 32.9% of the total. Imports of electronic products posted a 33.2% growth to $1.625 billion in November 2010, from $1.220 billion recorded in November 2009.

The NSO said that on a month-on-month basis, imports of electronic products increased by 5.4% from $1.542 billion recorded in October 2010.

Payments for imports from the Philippines’ top 10 sources for November 2010 amounted to $3.829 billion, or 77.5%, of the total. The top three sources were Japan, including Okinawa, the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii, and China.

Imports from Japan accounted for 11.9%, or $586.30 million, of the total import bill. This represented an increase of 34.5% from $435.97 million recorded in November 2009.

Shipments from the US accounted for 11.4%, or $562.93 million, of the total import bill for November 2010. This was a 44% -increase from the $389.73 million recorded in November 2009.

Imports from China accounted for 9.4%, or $466.59 million of the total import bill in November 2010. This was a 55% increase from the $301.07 million posted in the same month in 2009.

Meanwhile, the Philippines’ total imports in November 2010 from Eastern Asia accounted for 38.3% of the county’s total imports, with total payments worth $1.891 billion, or a growth of 31.2%, from the $1.442 billion in November 2009.

Imports from Asean member-countries in November 2010 amounted to $1.227 billion, or 24.8%, of the total imports. It was higher by 54.2% from $796.04 million registered in November 2009.

November 2010 imports from the European Union were valued at $387.69 million, or 7.84%, of the total. This was a 41.6% growth from the $273.72 million posted in the same period in 2009.