MANILA— Philippine export of minerals and agro-based products registered strong growth in January 2015, but weaker demand in manufactures and lower sales from petroleum pulled down total exports, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

The Philippine Statistics Authority reported today that the country’s merchandise exports reached US$4.36 billion in January, a marginal drop of 0.5 percent from last year’s US$4.38 billion. This is despite the 34-percent growth in export of mineral products and 12.9-percent growth in export of agro-based products.

“The decline is negligible as compared to most trade-oriented economies in selected East Asian countries that posted negative outturns in merchandise exports during the period. This is also in view of weaker demand conditions and fragile manufacturing sectors in some of our major trading partners, Japan, Korea, and Singapore,” said Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan.

Among major commodity groups, higher shipments of copper metal, copper concentrates, and iron ore agglomerates pushed mineral products to grow to US$201.0 million in January 2015 from US$150.0 million in the same month last year.

Likewise, export earnings from agro-based products grew to US$313.9 million in January 2015 from US$ 278.2 million in January 2014, due to increased outward shipments of other agro-based products, sugar, and coconut products.

Meanwhile, gains from exports of manufactured goods declined by 1.6 percent from US$3.8 billion in January 2014 to US$3.7 billion in the same period last year. This is due to lower outbound sales of other manufactured goods, wood manufactures, electronic equipment and parts, and chemicals.

Despite the slowdown, exports of electronic products continued to be strong with a 14.6 percent year-on-year increase in January 2015. This is largely backed by the 16.0 percent increase in outward shipments of semiconductors, which accounted for almost 69.0 percent of the country’s total electronic exports.

Similarly, export receipts from petroleum products remain affected by the continued decline in global crude oil prices.

“While the gains in mineral and total agro-based products were not enough to compensate for the lower overseas sales of manufactures and petroleum products, their strong performance for the period helped moderate the decline in our total merchandise exports,” he said.

“We note that the slack performance for the period remains in line with the anticipated low demand due to seasonal factors,” added Balisacan, who is also NEDA Director-General.

The Cabinet official also warns of risks along the fringes of a relatively well Philippine exports sector.

“While the Japanese and Chinese manufacturing sectors slightly recovered in February, recent developments in the US manufacturing sector may further strain exports over the short-run. The composite index for the US manufacturing sector suggests a moderation in the next period, reflecting the downward trend in new orders and employment in the sector,” said Balisacan.

“Based on general market consensus, commodity prices will also likely remain low for the entire 2015. On that note, revenue from major agro-based commodities such as coconut oil and copra may moderate given the stabilization of global supply. However, increasing demand for gadgets and smart technologies will continue to benefit the electronics sector,” he added.

With these, Balisacan urges the government to fast-track the programs directed to support the industrial and manufacturing development of the country.

“The full implementation of the Industry Development Program of the Department of Trade and Industry, which aims to enhance the competitiveness of key industries, should be supported. To complement this, gaps in infrastructure, including in energy and logistics, should also be addressed in order to enhance the competitiveness of Philippine exports,” he said.

Japan remained as the country’s top export market for the period, with 20.3 percent share in the total exports, amounting to US$ 882.6 million, albeit lower by 23.2 percent year-on-year.

The United States of America came in second with 15.9 percent share, amounting to US$ 693.9. This is followed by the People’s Republic of China with 10.2 percent or US$ 445.4 million worth of exports.