Export orders declined 0.8 percent year-on-year last month to US$28.68 billion as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted production, supply chains and logistics in China, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said yesterday.
On a monthly basis, export orders contracted 18.8 percent from US$35.31 billion, ministry statistics showed.
The ministry said it expects the decline to accelerate this month.
Photo: Huang Pei-chun, Taipei Times
Orders for information and communications technology (ICT) products, one of Taiwan’s most important export categories, was most affected as orders fell 23.4 percent year-on-year to US$6.05 billion.
“More than 90 percent of ICT products, comprised of smartphones, laptops and servers, are manufactured in China, which makes them particularly vulnerable when the country deployed stringent anti-epidemic measures,” Department of Statistics Director Huang Yu-ling (黃于玲) said.
ICT product makers reacted swiftly by moving production back to Taiwan, Huang said.
“This holds true for all product categories, as manufacturers increasingly shift production back home to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus,” Huang said, adding that overall overseas production fell to 40.7 percent last month, hitting a 15-year low.
Meanwhile, export orders for electronics bounced back after a small contraction in January to surge 20.4 percent year-on-year to US$8.82 billion, due to growing demand for semiconductors.
“Upcoming 5G deployment boosted orders for foundry services, design and packaging of integrated circuits as well as memory products,” Huang said.
However, export orders for optoelectronics continued a downward spiral despite an increase in demand for optical lenses, as flat-panel prices struggle to recover.
With part of their production in China hindered, optoelectronics makers posted a 14.7 percent year-on-year decline to US$1.34 billion in orders last month, the data showed.
Orders for traditional manufactured goods, with the exception of petrochemicals, increased by between 1.4 percent and 14.3 percent on an annual basis last month due to a low comparison base.
“While this may seem to provide some respite for traditional manufacturers after incessant declines last year, this situation is unlikely to persist ... especially not for petrochemicals, rubber and plastic products,” Huang said, referring to the recent slump in oil prices.
As COVID-19 spreads worldwide, hitting Europe and the US, export orders are expected to continue to decline this month by between 3.2 percent and 9.3 percent on an annual basis to US$33.5 billion to US$35 billion.
“The virus outbreak in China mainly upset the supply end ... but now we might be facing disruptions on end markets,” Huang said, forecasting a more than US$2 billion decline in orders for ICT makers, which are expected to be the most affected.
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