Lebanon’s industrial exports rise to $3.3 bln in 2010, trade deficit widens

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s industrial exports in 2010 jumped by 8.26 percent to $3.3 billion although the balance of trade deficit continued to widen.

The Association of Lebanese Industrialists said in a statement Thursday that the surge in industrial exports last year reflects the increasing capability of the manufacturing sector to meet international standards.

According to the statistics provided by the association, the number one exporting item was machinery and electrical equipment ($742 million), followed by precious stones ($658 million), metallic goods ($460 million), agro food industries ($324 million), chemicals (310 million) and paper (237 million).

The association stressed that if the political situation in Lebanon had been normal the industrial exports would have been much bigger.

It added that the volatile situation in a number of Arab countries has affected to some extent industrial exports to these states.

The association noted that since the outbreak of turmoil in some Arab states, exports to Tunisia and Egypt have completely stopped.

But it hoped that industrialists would be able to find other stable markets to export their goods in the near future.

The association intends to make visits to several countries in Asia and Europe to promote Lebanese industry. It will also hold regular exhibitions in these countries.

But despite the notable improvement in industrial exports last year, the country’s balance of trade deficit continued to widen.

Figures released by the Finance Ministry, Customs Directorate, indicate a trade deficit of $1.432 billion in January 2011, as compared to a deficit of $932 million in January 2010. This one-month deficit, being the highest in five years, resulted from both higher imports and lower exports.

The Customs Directorate, however, said that the next couple of months will provide a clearer outlook of this year’s trend, in view of increasing global oil and food prices. According to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization, global food prices rose 28 percent in the past 12 months and reached a record high in January 2011.

Total imports increased by 39 percent in January 2011, when compared to the beginning of 2010, to reach $1.729 billion.

This hike in imports was induced mainly by a substantially larger bill of “mineral fuels and oils” – up by 140 percent, while the volume of imports increased by 126 percent.

Excluding mineral fuels and oils, imports have increased by around 17 percent during the period under consideration, mainly due to higher imports of “live animals and animal products” and “unwrought and semi-manufactured gold, diamonds, precious stones and metals” by $34 million and $23 million, respectively.

In nominal terms, the level of imports in January 2011 is the highest in five years, both including and excluding mineral fuel and oil.

Exports have decreased by around 5 percent in January 2011, mainly a volume-effect with the volume of exports decreasing by 7 percent, when compared to January 2010.

Despite the decrease in a few export goods, export of “iron and steel” increased by $13 million due to a 53 percent increase in volume. – The Daily Star

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