Exports in March grew by 7.3 percent versus last year to €291m and, combined with a fall of 5.5 percent in imports to €386.5m, contributed to a significantly reduced visible trade gap. In fact, the trade imbalance went down by 69 percent to €95.5m. But if fuel exports, which continue to skew the trade figures, are excluded then exports have declined by 6.8 percent.
The growth rate in exports this year declined significantly over that registered last year, when growth in total exports was 36.4 percent. If fuel exports are excluded, then the growth rate declined from 12.7 percent in 2011 over 2010 to a negative 6.8 percent this year over last.
Exports in the first quarter of the year were 32.5 percent higher than last year, compared to a growth rate of 36.4 percent in 2011, but again if fuel exports are excluded, then the result was a 2.5 percent decline this year compared with a 13.6 percent increase in the first quarter of 2011.
Looking at the composition of imports in March this year, what stands out are large reductions in the importation of industrial supplies (-32%), of capital goods (-33%) and of consumer goods (-17%). This all shows that the economy is now truly being impacted by the European recession. The only item that registered an increase was fuel imports, which rose by 73 percent. The figures for the first quarter’s imports have a similar profile, with drops in the imports of all imports except fuel.
The visible trade gap for the first three months of the year was a negative €257.7m, an improvement of 36 percent over last year’s negative €403.2m – a result of an 8.8 percent growth in imports but an even higher growth of 32.5 percent in exports. As already mentioned, both the imports and exports figures are coloured by the strong fuel component.
There was an across-the-board deterioration in the balance of trade in March vis a vis the EU, Asia, North and Central America, and ships/aircraft stores, compensated but not offset by an improvement vis a vis non-EU countries, Africa, and the Caribbean.