By Hilary Mare
NAMIBIA’S trade deficit widened by N$2.7 billion in the first quarter (Q1) of 2017, a 611 percent rise in comparison to a revised deficit of N$448 million in the corresponding period last year, a report compiled by the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) has revealed.
The NSA trade bulletin, released last week, highlights that Namibia’s overall trade (exports plus imports) for Q1-2017 was estimated at N$36.9 billion, representing a decline of 16.6 percent, compared to the N$44.3 billion recorded in Q1-2016.
In addition, the N$36.9 billion of Q1-2017 also represents a decline of 11.4 percent, compared to Q4-2016, which recorded N$41.7 billion of overall trade.
“Namibia’s trade deficit for Q1-2017 was estimated at N$3.1 billion. This deficit was attributed to exports of N$16.9 billion and imports of N$20 billion. Overall, exports fell by N$5.5 billion, which is a 23 percent decline, whereas imports decreased by N$2.3 billion (10.4 percent),” Alex Shimuafeni, NSA Statistician-General and Chief Executive Officer, said.
He also went on to say that the persistent deficits are mostly driven by Namibia’s high demand for high-valued manufactured commodities and machinery from the rest of the world (ROW), while it exports commodities of low value or primary goods (diamonds excluded).
Exports to key markets
Namibia’s export market was led by South Africa, Export Processing Zones (EPZ), Norway, Botswana and Switzerland, which absorbed 56.8 percent of the country’s total exports. Exports to the aforesaid markets weakened, falling by N$6.2 billion (39.5 percent) compared to the N$15.8 billion recorded in the same period last year.
On a quarterly basis, exports to these markets grew by N$1.3 billion (15.9 percent), from the N$8.276 million witnessed in Q4-2016.
The annual decline in exports to the these markets reduced their share to 56.8 percent of Namibia’s total exports, from a level of 72.2 percent accounted for in the corresponding quarter a year earlier, but up from 54.6 percent in the previous quarter (Q4- 2016).
“The recent decline in exports to the aforesaid markets was mainly reflected in the value of exports to Switzerland, dropping by N$6 billion (82 percent), compared to the N$7.4 billion observed in the same period last year. This decline was mainly attributed to diamonds (92.1 percent) copper ores (90.4 percent) and copper cathodes (38.0 percent). Furthermore, exports of the same commodities to Switzerland dropped by 84.6 percent, 32 percent and 26.3 percent, respectively, from the previous quarter.
“Exports to Botswana equally declined, registering N$1.5 billion in Q1-2017, compared to N$2.6 billion and N$2.4 billion recorded in Q1-2016 and Q4- 2016, respectively, resulting in a yearly decline of 40.7 percent and a quarterly decline of 33.5 percent. The recent decline in exports to Botswana was led by beverages, including alcoholic, (57.2 percent), mineral fuels and oils (44.9 percent), diamonds (41.4 percent) and salt and sulphur (26.8 percent). Similarly, exports to Norway and Italy also weakened,” the trade bulletin said.
“Exports to the EPZ rose sharply, registering N$1.7 billion in Q1-2017, compared to N$826 million in Q1-2016 and N$1 billion in Q4-2016, representing 111.4 percent and 73.1 percent growth, respectively, as exports of diamonds to the EPZ grew.
“Furthermore, exports to South Africa improved, recording 17.2 percent and 13 percent compared to N$2.7 billion in Q1- 2016 and N$2.8 billion in Q4-2016, respectively, with the most notable growth observed in exports of mineral fuels and oils, live animals, fish and beverages (including alcohol). Further, growth in exports was registered by the United Arab Emirates (180.8 percent), Belgium (122.6 percent), France (56.1 percent) and Spain (7.7 percent),” the report explained.
Imports from key markets
South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, China and Bulgaria emerged as the main sources of imports for Namibia during the period under review.
These markets accounted for 78.2 percent of Namibia’s total import bill from the rest of the world, up from 70.7 percent in the corresponding period a year ago, and from 62.9 percent witnessed in the previous quarter.
The combined import bill from these markets amounted to N$15.7 billion, a decline of 0.8 percent, compared to N$15.8 billion witnessed in the same period last year, and a decline of 6 percent, compared to N$16.2 billion in the preceding quarter.
“The domestic economy continued to rely on South Africa, with imports from that country accounting for 55.9 percent of the total import bill. However, imports from that country declined, registering N$11.2 billion in Q1- 2017, and a decline of 8.7 percent compared to N$12.3 billion in Q1-2016 and a 16.8 percent drop, when compared to N$13.5 billion in Q4- 2016.
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