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Indonesia’s December trade surplus at USD1B

JAKARTA (CNA) – Indonesia’s trade surplus narrowed more than expected in December to USD1.02 billion, the lowest in 20 months, as a surge in exports driven by commodities slowed and imports hit a record high, official data showed yesterday.

Southeast Asia’s largest economy has been reporting a trade surplus every month since May 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic suppressed local demand while exports rode a boom in prices of commodities like coal, palm oil, copper, tin, steel and rubber.

The December surplus was about a third of the USD3.13 billion forecast by economists polled by Reuters and was also much smaller than the USD3.51 billion recorded in November.

December imports hit a record high of USD21.36 billion, up 47.93 per cent on a yearly basis and beating the poll’s forecast for 39.40 per cent growth, as overseas purchases of everything from consumer goods to raw materials for the manufacturing industry jumped.

“This shows that economic activity is improving … including consumption,” head of Statistics Indonesia Margo Yuwono told a news conference.

Meanwhile, export growth was 35.30 per cent on a yearly basis compared with the poll’s expectation of 40.40 per cent growth, with shipments of coal to China slowing as Beijing ramped up domestic output of the fuel.

The resource-rich country’s total shipments in December were worth USD22.38 billion, the second-highest on record for monthly data after November’s USD22.84 billion.

Economists have warned that a ban on coal exports, implemented since January 1 to avoid widespread domestic power outages, could shift Indonesia’s trade balance to a deficit. Coal exports make up about 14 per cent of Indonesia’s overall exports.

The ban has been eased for big miners that have met domestic sales requirements, but is still affecting smaller miners whose output accounts for up to 40 per cent of Indonesia’s total.

A vehicle drives through a palm oil plantation
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