The trade balance showed a surplus of USD 0.2 billion in February, down from a surplus of USD 0.8 billion in the same month of 2022. The 12-month rolling trade surplus narrowed to USD 5.5 billion in February, from USD 6.9 billion in December. At the margin, the seasonally-adjusted annualized balance showed a surplus of USD 3.3 billion in the quarter ended in February (from a surplus of USD 13.6 billion in 4Q22).
Exports declined during the quarter ended in February, affected by drought. Total exports decreased by 12.4% yoy, after growing 8.0% in 4Q22. Agricultural exports, including manufactured agricultural products, fell by 18.1% yoy in the quarter (from growth of 6.7% yoy in 4Q22), led by lower wheat exports due to the drought. Exports of other industrial products dropped by 5.8% yoy in the quarter ended in February (from a rise of 6.1% in 4Q22), mostly due to smaller shipments of Biodiesel. On a sequential basis, exports fell by 43.3% qoq/saar in February, from an increase of 9.2% in the quarter ended in December.
Imports continued to fall in the quarter ended in February, affected by controls. Total imports decreased by 9.8% yoy in the period (from -2.2% yoy in 4Q22) and -9.5% qoq/saar (from a drop of 44.7% in 4Q22). Imports of intermediate goods fell by 11.9% yoy, while imports of capital goods and parts decreased by 7.7% yoy. Imports of consumer goods (including cars) also dropped by 7.7% yoy in the period.
The deficit in the energy trade balance showed a slight deterioration in the first two months of the year. The last 12-month deficit widened to USD 5.1 billion, from USD 5.0 billion in December 2022. Energy imports decreased by 9.7% yoy in the quarter ended in February, while oil exports increased by 1.0% yoy in the period.
We forecast a trade surplus of USD 7.0 billion for 2023, with downside risks from a severe drought. In our view, the constant downward revision of harvest estimates may lead to the introduction of tighter controls amid low international reserves.
Juan Carlos Barboza