Aditya Hadi, Jakarta – Indonesia's trade surplus in January quadrupled compared with the same period last year, exceeding forecasts from analysts.
According to a Statistics Indonesia (BPS) press briefing on Wednesday, the country posted a US$3.87 billion surplus last month, extending a long streak of positive trade balances since May 2020.
The figure is higher than forecasts by research firm Moody's Analytics and a Reuters' poll of $3.2 billion and $3.35 billion, respectively.
Both exports and imports grew annually, with exports soaring by 16.37 percent year on year (yoy) to $22.31 billion, but imports only inched up by 1.27 percent yoy to $18.44 billion.
Coal shipments, which comprised most of the mineral fuel group, more than doubled (up by 242 percent) yoy to $4.25 billion in January, thanks to soaring coal prices, BPS said.
However, shipments of crude palm oil (CPO) saw a 2.54 percent yoy dip to $2.3 billion, while iron and steel dropped by more than 5.7 percent yoy to $2.1 billion, as international prices for both commodities declined, BPS said.
Coal, CPO, and iron and steel are Indonesia's three largest export contributors, according to BPS.
The United States still accounted for the largest chunk of the overall trade surplus, as Indonesia exported $1.17 billion more than it imported from the US.
The trade surplus in January this year was lower than that of last December, which was around $3.97 billion. On a monthly basis, exports were down by 6.36 percent, continuing a downward trend since September last year.
BPS noted this was due to a combination of declines in both volume and price of Indonesia's key commodities like coal, CPO, and iron and steel.
Faisal Rachman, economist at state-owned lender Bank Mandiri, said in a statement on Wednesday, that the decline in exports was caused by a drop in shipments of coal, CPO, and iron and steel amid the global economic slowdown and looming recession in many parts of the world.
On top of that, coal exports were also down due to a contraction in prices, which was caused by increased global supply. "China has reopened coal imports from Australia, and India has increased coal production to meet its domestic needs," Faisal explained.
Meanwhile, imports were also down by 7.15 percent because of the dip in capital goods and raw materials.
According to M. Habibullah, an undersecretary at BPS, the decline in raw material imports had a major impact because they were also used to produce export products, which was reflected in much lower exports in January on a monthly basis.