MANILA – Imports growth is seen to remain positive for 2014 albeit its recorded contraction by 2.6 percent in September, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that total payments for imported goods fell to US$5.6 billion in September 2014 from US$5.7 billion in September 2013. Imports of raw materials and intermediate goods reached US$2.1 billion in September 2014, lower by 11.0 percent from the US$2.4 billion in the same period last year.

“Overall growth trend of imports remains anchored on the general sentiment of the economy for the period. Current quarter outlook index for both consumer and business confidence show a relatively weaker traction due to seasonal weak demand and a slack in industrial production. Still, imports are expected to pick up in the beginning of the fourth quarter in time for the holiday season,” said Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan.

But for the first three quarters of 2014, total imports increased by 3.4 percent to US$48.1 billion from US$46.5 billion a year ago. Moreover, with faster growth in exports (9.9%), trade-in-goods deficit for the January to September 2014 period narrowed significantly to US$1.5 billion from US$4.1 billion in the comparable period in 2013.

“In time for the anticipated increase in economic activity towards the end of the year, the government should remain vigilant on the logistical challenges that may arise especially those involving importation of consumer goods,” the Cabinet official added.

Sustained growth in household consumption increased the total import payments for consumer goods by 17.3 percent, reaching US$779.6 million in September 2014, from US$664.4 million in September 2013.

“But the government needs to have close monitoring of the successive decline in the importation of materials and accessories for the manufacture of electronic equipment, as this could be a leading indicator of the country’s external prospects, especially in the exports of manufactured goods,” added Balisacan, who is also NEDA Director-General.

On the other hand, the downward trend in international prices encouraged the purchase of mineral fuels and lubricants, which increased from US$978.1 million in September 2013 to US$1.3 billion in September 2014.

“The anticipated low energy prices especially for crude oil could be a promising support to the growing energy demand of the country in the short run. The government and the private sector could take this opportunity to acquire future oil contracts to maintain stability of power supply in the country while exploring and expanding alternative energy sources,” he said.

Meanwhile, the People’s Republic of China remained as the country’s top source of merchandise imports in September 2014 with a 14.0 percent share to total imports bill amounting to US$781.0 million. Second was Taiwan with a share of 8.8 percent, followed by the United States of America (8.6%), Japan (7.7%), Republic of Korea (7.6%), Singapore (6.6%), Thailand (6.3%), Indonesia (5.3%), Malaysia (4.6%), and Germany (4.1%).