Imports slid by more than a tenth in February as shipments from China—the Philippines’ top source of foreign-made goods—contracted at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Preliminary figures released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) on Wednesday showed that the country’s merchandise exports rose 2.8 percent year-on-year to $5.4 billion in February, but the value of imports fell 11.6 percent to $7.1 billion that month.

The bigger slide in imports pulled down the total February trade volume by 5.9 percent to $12.5 billion from $13.2 billion a year ago.

The imports slump nonetheless narrowed the month’s trade-in-goods deficit by nearly four-tenths to $1.7 billon from $2.7 billion last year.In its report, the PSA attributed the lower imports in February to decreases in the top 10 major import commodities led by cereals and cereal preparations (down 28.2 percent), industrial machinery and equipment (down 24.7 percent) and transport equipment (down 17.6 percent).

The other commodity groups whose imports declined year-on-year in February were telecommunication equipment and electrical machinery; mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials; other food and live animals; plastics in primary and nonprimary forms; iron and steel; electronic products, and miscellaneous manufactured articles.

PSA data showed that while China remained the Philippines’ biggest import source with a 12.9-percent share at $908.8 million, the value dropped from $1.6 billion recorded in February last year.

Global supply chains had been affected by the massive lockdown across China to control the spread of the new virus, which originated from the Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei province.The emergency emphasizes the need to fast-track reforms to facilitate trade. —Ben O. de Vera

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