March 9, 2018

While sustained double-digit growth in imports pushed up total trade in January 2018, the National Economic and Development Authority said building on the agribusiness sector will further drive growth in trade.

Based on a report by the Philippine Statistics Authority, a NEDA-attached agency, total trade grew by 7.0 percent to USD13.8 billion backed by imports growing by 11.4 percent as most commodity groups sustained positive growth.

On the other hand, exports decelerated by 0.5 percent due to sluggish non-electronic and agro-based commodity sales – its slowest growth since December 2016.

“With the global economy still set for a higher growth trajectory in 2018, the Philippines is off to a good start. However, it is essential for the national government to continue on its initiatives to support exports growth,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said.

He said that the government is targeting an 8-percent growth in merchandise exports for 2018, supported by a revival of the agribusiness sector.

“To achieve this, the Philippines needs to build up integrated industries that would generate higher value addition, especially for key products such as bananas, cacao, coffee, mangoes, and rubber as well as for other emerging high value crops,” Pernia said.

He added that it is crucial to support large and small producers and develop niche markets such as organic farming to fully harness the potential of the agricultural sector.

In maintaining greater market access, diplomatic posts play a big role by regularly providing relevant information on emerging products that the Philippines can supply to potential markets.

“Moreover, greater market access can be achieved through bilateral and multilateral deals, such as continued exploratory talks of the Department of Trade and Industry with the United States for a foreign trade agreement or an extension of the U.S. Generalized System of Preference (GSP) initiative, which expired last year,” Pernia noted.

Under the US GSP program, around 75 percent of Philippine products may enter the U.S. market duty-free.