Malawi’s exports soared by 16 percent in 2019 to hit $1.187 billion (about K890 billion) up from $1.021 billion (K766 billion) in 2018, the Malawi Government Annual Economic Report for 2020 has shown.
The report, released by the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development on Monday, further shows that imports, on the other hand, slightly grew by two percentage points from $2.827 billion to $2.895 billion.
The improvement in exports has resulted in a minor improvement in Malawi’s merchandise trade deficit position which pulled up by five percentage points from $1.806 billion down to $1.708 billion.
According to the Treasury, available quarterly figures indicate Malawi’s negative merchandise trade balance kept easing for four successive quarters from the fourth quarter of 2018 through the third quarter of 2019.
The report says despite the agricultural lean season which weighed down on exports in the first quarter of 2019, Malawi’s trade deficit stood at $454 billion, an improvement from previous quarter’s $470 billion. This, Treasury says, is owing to a three percent decline in imports within the quarter.
“A rise in sugar exports in the second quarter of 2019 saw exports picking up from the previous quarter. Despite a corresponding increase in imports, trade deficit experienced a 10 percentage point improvement in the second quarter. Seasonal uptick in agricultural export commodities in the third quarter saw continued improvement in export figures.
“This, coupled with a slight 0.4 percent increase in imports to $726.9 million, saw trade balance improve to a deficit of $399.9 million from $407.1 million in the previous quarter,” the report says.
Available data from National Statistical Office and Ministry of Industry and Trade indicate that a basket of tobacco, tea, sugar, groundnuts, soya beans and soya bean extracts and residues, other dried legumes, and macadamia nuts account for well over 80 percent of Malawi export products.
The Economic blueprint further recommends that to optimize its diversification initiatives, Malawi seeks to move up the value chain as envisaged in the draft second National Export Strategy.
It says 2020 prospects for the export sector however hang in the dark shadows of the global Coronavirus pandemic.