Exports grow in 2018 but trade deficit widens

Coffee is expected to bring in more export revenues from $68.7m in 2018 due to improvements in prices on the international market. / File

Rwanda’s total exports earnings in 2018 grew to $995.7m from 943.5 million in 2017 with the volume of exports growing by 17 per cent to 742,300 tonnes.

However, despite the growth in exports the formal trade deficit widened by 12.4 per cent. The rise of import bill by 9.5 per cent was occasioned by the ongoing infrastructure projects such as Peat Power Plant, Bugesera Airport and road network expansion projects.

This upsets a trend of recent months as the deficit had narrowed owing to the increase and diversification of exports.

According to the Monetary Policy and Financial Stability Statement, traditional exports such as tea, coffee, mineral, hides and skins raked in $312.7 million compared to $284 million.

The mining sector continued to perform well with exports value of main minerals; coltan, cassiterite and wolfram raking in 142.2 million.

To grow significantly in terms of exports receipts, exporters had to increase the volumes of tea and coffee as the two product’s prices had declined in the international market.

In the same year, formal imports rose $2425 million from $2215 in the previous year with capital and intermediary goods growing significantly.

Capital goods’–machinery, tools and devices–import bill rose to $468 million from $380 million in the previous year.  Disruptions in local cement production during Cimerwa’s plant upgrade also saw an increase in demand for exports.

The trade deficit with the East African Community also widened by 20.7 per cent to $357 million.

It is unlikely to establish the trend of trade deficit this year as the construction projects will still likely see continued demand for capital goods.

However, coffee and tea are expected to attract better prices in the international market with Arabica coffee expected to go up by 1.4 per cent and tea by 1.1 per cent in prices.

The Central Bank Governor, John Rwangombwa, said that they are currently making and reviewing projections to estimate possible trends in international trade.


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