Trade deficit falls as exports grow at fastest rate since March 1995

Uganda’s merchandise exports surged in March on a spike in gold shipments, bringing down the merchandise trade deficit to its lowest level in fourteen months.

Goods exports rose 94.7% from a year earlier to $606m, reversing four straight months of decline, according to Bank of Uganda data. The increase, the fastest since March 1995 when goods exports rose 110.2% to $68.3m, was due to a sharp jump in the value of gold shipments to $363.4m compared to $25m a year earlier.

Compared with March 2018, goods imports increased by 44.7% to $714.8m, their fastest growth since August 2011. But the impact of this growth on the merchandise trade deficit, which fell 40.4% year on year to $108.8m, was dented by the spike in exports.

The increase in goods imports was driven by an 84% annual rise in non-oil imports to $625.6m. Oil imports, on the other hand, declined by 7%. Together, non-oil imports and oil imports make up formal private sector imports, which rose 66.5%. Overall, private sector imports — including estimated private sector imports — increased by 57.9%.

Government imports reduced by $38.1m to $8.3m, mainly as a result of a decline in project imports.

Coffee exports fell 4.5% year on year to $34.1m and were 5.6% of total exports. Figures from the Uganda Coffee Development Authority show that the decline was due to a fall in exports of the more expensive arabica bean; shipments decreased by 27.4% in quantity and 32.2% in value to $9.5m. Robusta shipments increased by 12.5% to 24.5m.

Non-regional exports of fish and fishery products increased by 48.6% to $18.8m and comprised 3.1% of total exports. Informal cross-border exports fell 16.7% to $45.9m, mainly because of a fall in exports of beans and industrial products.