Export decline expected to continue

OMINOUS TIDINGS::China has reportedly ‘groomed’ its supply chain, cutting back its reliance on chemical and optical products from Taiwan, leading to huge declines

By Crystal Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Tue, Apr 12, 2016 - Page 13

The nation’s exports declined 11.4 percent year-on-year to US$22.72 billion last month, contracting for 14 consecutive months as the global economy fares weaker than expected and China decreases its dependence on Taiwan-made electronic and optical products, the Ministry of Finance said yesterday.

In the first quarter, exports fell 12.1 percent to US$62.69 billion, worse than the 9.53 percent decline the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) predicted in February and ominous for the nation’s export-reliant economy.

“Among all items, smartphone shipments suffered the most with an 80 percent retreat from a year earlier,” Department of Statistics Director-General Yeh Maan-tzwu (葉滿足) said.

Tepid exports weighed on demand for imports that shrank 17 percent from a year earlier to US$18.2 billion last month, generating a trade surplus of US$4.5 billion, the ministry’s report found.

The trade surplus accumulated to US$12.17 billion for the quarter ended March 31, the report said, better than the DGBAS’ estimate of US$11.15 billion.

Exports to China, the largest destination accounting for 38.7 percent of all outbound shipments, dropped 14.2 percent to U$8.8 billion, the report said.

China has groomed its own supply chain and cut back on imports of optical and chemical products from Taiwan, Yeh said.

That explained why optical product exports saw a 29 percent decline last month with camera lenses falling 21.3 percent, the statistics official said.

Taichung-based Largan Precision Co (大立光), which supplies camera lenses used in Apple Inc’s iPhone series and other brands, last week reported a 21.73 percent year-on-year decline in revenues for the first quarter and expected lackluster sales moving forward, as this quarter is the low season for technology products.

The contraction is poised to outlive the record during the global financial crisis, which kept exports in negative territory for 14 months, but this time due to the shifting focus from hardware to software competition, of which local exporters failed to take advantage, the report said.

Cheaper oil prices continue to drag exports of mineral, petrochemical and basic metal products at the pace of double-digit percentage, it said.

On a positive note, mineral export volume picked up last month from a year earlier, indicating the scene is likely to improve if oil prices show further signs of stabilization, Yeh said.

The 1.4 percent monthly decline in the exports of electronic components last month is also encouraging, as it might suggest the much hoped-for advent of a recovery, Yeh said.

The imports of capital equipment lend support to the expectation with a marginal increase of 0.3 percent last month from a year earlier, the report said.

Capital equipment imports totaled US$8.81 billion last quarter, representing a 3.9 percent gain from the same period last year, the report said, as local semiconductor manufacturers seek technology upgrades and innovation.