Surging imports, mainly those of energy, semi-finished goods, raw materials and other consumer goods amid strong private consumption, offset a mild exports rise, widening Tunisia’s trade deficit by 19.3% y/y to TND11.8bn ($6.4bn) in the first ten months of 2014, data from the statistics office showed on November 11. The exports/imports ratio deteriorated to 66.4% at end-October from 68.7% the previous year.
The central bank recently warned that the country’s external position continues to deteriorate amid widening current account deficit. The latter’s financing has become a key growth engine of Tunisia’s external debt amid depleting FDI, casting doubt over Tunisia’s ability to anchor the public debt over the next few years, the central bank underscored. The current account deficit has increased 36% y/y to TND5.843bn in January-September, accounting for 7.1% of the full-year forecast GDP, compared to 5.6% of GDP the previous year.
Exports grew 2.1% y/y to TND23.3bn in January-October, whereas imports rose 7.3% y/y to TND35.1bn.
Exports were lifted by an 11.8% annual expansion in sales of mechanical and electrical appliances, a 9.2% y/y rise in other manufacturing industries and 3.2% increase in textile exports.
Exports, however, were dented by a 26.7% y/y drop in agriculture sales on falling value-added olive oil sales, a 5.1% y/y fall in phosphate exports and a 6.2% annual contraction in those of energy. The value-added olive oil exports declined to TND258.2mn over the period from TND762.1mn the year before.
Energy imports continued to weigh on Tunisia’s foreign trade parameters, rising 15.2% y/y in January-October and those of semi-finished goods growing 6.5% y/y. Food imports, however, fell 2.6% y/y on strong harvest.
Excluding energy, Tunisia’s imports rose 5.5% y/y in January-October.
The EU remained Tunisia’s main exports market, buying 74.3% of the total and marking a 6.8% y/y growth. Exports to the UK jumped 43.8% y/y in January-October and those to Germany grew 16.1% y/y. Sales to France grew 9.8% y/y over the period.
The EU also remained Tunisia’s main imports market with TND18.5bn (53% of the total), up 1.2% y/y. France and Italy topped the list of importers in January-October.
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