By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Bahamas experienced a 9.7 per cent drop in its trade deficit to $2.554 billion in 2013, largely due to an almost-$300 million fall in its import bill.
The Department of Statistics’ 2013 Annual Trade Data report, which covers just the Bahamas’ merchandise account or trade in goods, noted that total imports fell year-over-year by 8 per cent or $291.6 million, dropping from $3.658 billion to $3.366 billion.
While it is unclear whether the import drop is the start of a trend, and if it will be easier for the capital account (FDI and tourism earnings) surplus to finance the merchandise deficit, the narrowing was certainly not caused by any increase in Bahamian exports.
These, too, also fell in 2013, dropping from $828.7 million in 2012 to $811.7 million - a decline of $17 million or 2 per cent.
“The 2013 balance of trade (total exports minus total imports) continued to result in a deficit,” the Department of Statistics noted. “However, between 2012 and 2013, there was a noticeable decrease of some 9.7 per cent in the trade deficit, resulting in a net trade balance of $2.6 billion in 2013 compared to $2.8 billion in 2012.”
The $2.554 billion trade deficit incurred in 2013 was the lowest since 2009, when it fell to $2.114 billion at the recession’s peak.
“Data on merchandise trade for the year 2013 show that the value of commodities imported into the Bahamas totalled nearly $3.4 billion, resulting in a moderate decrease of 8 per cent below 2012’s total of $3.6 billion,” the Department of Statistics.
Mineral fuels, likely including gasoline and other oil-based products were the largest import category at $726.9 million or 21.6 per cent of the total, with machinery and transport next at $657.4 million or 19.5 per cent of the total.
Diesel fuel imports were worth $328.7 million in 2013, with unleaded auto gasoline and jet fuel accounting for $161.3 million and $46.9 million, respectively. Other fuel oils were worth $124.1 million.
Manufactured goods totalled $460.3 million for a 13.7 per cent of the Bahamas’ total import bill, with fresh meats, fruits, vegetables and processed foods coming to $466.5 million or 13.9 per cent.
On the exports front, Polymers International’s polystyrene products at $174.7 million, ‘other compounds’ at $61.6 million, lobster at $84.4 million accounted for 88 per cent of exports.
The US remained the Bahamas’ main trading partner, supplying $2.75 billion or 81.8 per cent of total imports. Puerto Rico and Trinidad & Tobago accounted for $249.6 million and $81.9 million worth of imports respectively.
The US also accounted for the lion’s share of Bahamian exports at $678.8 million, taking 83.6 per cent of the total.