Country Report Panama March 1998 Main report

Foreign trade & payments: Domestic exports grew strongly in 1997 --

Non-CFZ exports performed well in 1997, rising by 14.6% to $621.6m, and thus more than making up the marginal fall registered in 1996. All leading exports were up, with the exception of bananas, which declined by 4% to $176.6m as volumes were affected by adverse weather and competition from other sources. Shrimps continued to be the most dynamic among the principal exports, with a rise of 28% on 1996. Preliminary estimates show non-CFZ exports growing again in January 1998, but by a more modest 8.5% year on year.

Non-CFZ exports ($ m; fob) 1996 1997 % change Bananas 184.0 176.6 -4.0 Shrimp 74.6 95.5 28.0 Sugar 22.6 26.5 17.3 Textiles 20.2 24.2 19.8 Coffee 18.8 22.4 19.1 Gold & silver 10.7 12.8 19.6 Fishmeal & fish oil 2.9 8.4 189.7 Beef 5.1 7.3 43.1 Total incl others 542.3 621.6 14.6 Source: MIPPE.

-- while imports were sluggish in the first months

Preliminary figures show that non-CFZ imports in January-May 1997 were virtually unchanged on the year-earlier level. But there were significant divergences between the major categories. Imports of capital goods fell by 37%, suggesting that much of the equipment needed for investments which took place in 1997 were imported in 1996. The fall in import tariffs had an impact on consumer and intermediate goods, which grew by 20%. Official data do not yet go beyond May, but local newspapers report that non-CFZ imports were up by 7% year on year in the first nine months of 1997, boosted by strengthening economic growth. The year-on-year growth in the import bill had in fact already reached 8.4% in April-May, as against the 5.5% fall in the first three months.

Non-CFZ imports, Jan-May ($ m; cif) 1996 1997 % change Consumer & intermediate goods 631.1 755.6 19.7 Capital goods 295.4 186.7 -36.8 Crude oil 123.4 125.8 1.9 Foodstuffs 106.3 91.2 -14.2 Total 1,156.1 1,158.2 0.2 Source: MIPPE.

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