MANILA, September 5, 2003  (STAR) By Rica D. Delfinado  - Philippine exports fell by three percent to $2.968 billion in July from $3.06 billion in June, the National Statistics Office (NSO) reported yesterday, signaling a rocky start to the second half after the country barely dodged a technical recession in the second quarter.

Exports, which make up about two-fifths of overall gross domestic product (GDP), also shrank from the $3.223 billion recorded in July 2002, the government statistics office said.

July’s export performance was also the third time this year that the figures have shown a decline.

For the first seven months of the year, exports were up by only 0.5 percent to $20.037 billion from $19.934 billion a year ago.

Despite the dismal performance in July, Trade and Industry Secretary Manuel Roxas II said the five percent export growth target for the whole of 2003 is still doable.

"Our year-to-date performance is still ahead indicating that growth in our development product categories continues to be sustainable," Roxas said.

The government expects export revenues to grow by about five percent this year, slower than the 9.5 percent expansion in 2002.

Revenue from electronics amounted to only $1.946 billion in July from the $2.189 billion recorded in the same period last year and was barely higher than the $1.93 billion in June.

Electronic products account for around 60 percent of total export revenue.

Garments exports, the second top earner, fell 10.4 percent while coconut oil shipments surged 108.4 percent, the NSO said.

Other products that registered good growth performance are marine products and carageenan with a combined growth of 37.10 percent; processed food and beverages with 25.78 percent growth rate, and home furnishing, 19.81 percent.

Coconut product exports, one of the biggest revenue earners for the agriculture sector, are showing signs of resurgence. The country exported $358.77 million during the Jan-July period this year, 46.09 percent higher than the $245.59 million recorded during the same period last year.

With imports generally outpacing exports in recent months, analysts have expressed concern about the impact of a widening trade deficit on the country’s current account.

The country is expected to benefit from a pick up in demand from its major markets in the second half but analysts see a risk that shipments may not grow enough to meet the official target, as exports were high in the latter part of 2002.

But Roxas is optimistic that "consumer spending projections continue to be positive," noting the prevailing improved economic outlook in the US and Japan, the country’s two biggest trading partners.

"July export business has to do with inventory adjustments and does not at all indicate a decline in consumption," Roxas added. "We expect inventory build-up towards the end of the year," he added. – With Rocel Felix

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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