Sri Lanka trade deficit falls in Jan, vehicle, gold imports down

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka’s external trade balance fell to a 617 million US dollar deficit in January 2019 from a 1.05 billion US dollar deficit a year earlier amid higher exports and falling imports, official data showed.

Exports for January grew 7.5 percent from a year earlier to 1.04 billion rupees, while imports fell 17.8 percent to 1.66 billion US dollars, the Central Bank said.
January was the second consecutive month in which exports had exceeded 1 billion US dollars.
In industrial exports, earnings from textiles and garments grew 9.5 percent from a year earlier to 475.9 million US dollars in January.
"Textiles and garment exports increased as a result of high demand for garments from the EU and the USA as well as non-traditional markets such as India, Japan, Australia, China and Canada," the Central Bank said.
Rubber product exports grew 13.5 percent to 80.7 million US dollars.
Food, beverage and tobacco exports grew 10.2 percent to 53.1 million US dollars driven by higher tobacco exports.
Petroleum product exports fell 28.9 percent to 37.5 million US dollars.
"Export earnings from petroleum products declined significantly in January 2019 for the second consecutive month due to lower bunkering and aviation fuel exports driven by significantly lower bunkering quantity, reflecting the intense competition faced by Sri Lankan ports from regional ports mainly in India and Singapore."
Agricultural exports grew for the first time in 11 months due to higher seafood and coconut export growth.
Tea export earnings however fell 0.9 percent from a year earlier to 110.8 million US dollars despite higher volumes.
Meanwhile, imports fell for the third consecutive month, driven by policy measures of the central bank.
In consumer goods, food and beverage imports fell 39.5 percent to 111.2 million US dollars with higher availability of domestic rice, and falling demand for dairy and vegetable imports.
Personal vehicle imports fell 47.9 percent to 49.5 million US dollars, with the Central Bank imposing higher duties and margin requirements, which were only removed in April.
In intermediate goods, fuel imports fell 9.1 percent to 329 million US dollars. 
"Expenditure on fuel imports declined due to lower average import prices and lower volumes of crude oil and refined petroleum products despite a higher import volume of coal."
Gold imports were negligible, from 93.7 million US dollars a year earlier, as the central bank had imposed higher duties to curtail gold smuggling to India.
Fertilizer imports fell 91.2 percent to 3.7 million US dollars.
Investment goods meanwhile fell 8.8 percent to 398.5 million US dollars.
"Lower expenditure on commercial cabs and auto trishaws categorised under transport equipment, and iron and steel categorised under building material, mainly led to this decline," the central bank said.
The construction sector was experiencing a slowdown due to over 90 billion rupees in overdue payments from the government for infrastructure projects, which had squeezed liquidity of contractors. (Colombo/Apr17/2019-SB)

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