Nu 27B trade deficit last year, lowest in five years

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Bhutan’s trade deficit last year stood at Nu 27 billion (B), a decrease from Nu 30B and Nu 29.6B in 2018 and 2017 respectively.

This is the lowest in five years, according to Bhutan Trade Statistics (BTS) 2019.

What this means is the country’s import value in 2019 exceeded the export value. The country exported goods worth Nu 41.8B and imported Nu 69B worth of goods.

The country experienced a trade deficit of Nu 32B in 2016 and 2015.

Electricity export continued to play crucial role in narrowing the deficit. Otherwise, export figures would have hit Nu 31B and pushed the trade deficit to Nu 37.6B.

Excluding electricity export, the country’s total export value last year was Nu 31.2B with import value of Nu 68.8B.

The Mangdechhu Hydroelectric Project Authority (MHPA), a new source of earning in 2019, is attributed to the overall increase in energy export.

MHPA recorded a gross export of 1,298 million units (MU) which earned about Nu 5.3B. Tala Hydroelectric Project Authority exported 2,688MU energy and earned Nu 5.6B.

Energy export last year was 6,146 MU and earned Nu 16.2B compared to that of 4,535MU and Nu 10.5B in 2018.

At the same time, Bhutan imported diesel worth Nu 7.7B and petroleum worth Nu 2.5B. Electricity worth Nu 206 million (M) was also imported in 2019.

Bhutan’s trade balance (including electricity trade) with India was also in the red at Nu 16.8B, with an import value of a staggering Nu 56.6B against the export value of Nu 39.8B. However, this is a decrease compared to 2018’s deficit with India, which was Nu 27.9B with Nu 60B of import value against Nu 32B in export.

Trade with India, excluding electricity, was at Nu 32.8B in deficit.

The balance of trade with countries other than India also weakened last year and stood at Nu 4.7B considering the import value of Nu 12B and Nu 7.6B in export.

In 2018, Bhutan experienced a trade deficit with countries other than India at Nu 2B.

Ferrosilicon is still the top commodity Bhutan exported in 2019 but it has dropped drastically at Nu 9.7B compared to Nu 13B in 2018. This is evident as the price of ferrosilicon, which started off quite well at Nu 90,000 per metric tonne (MT) in the year’s beginning, dropped to Nu 66,000 to Nu 69,000 by mid-year.

The drop in the price was largely attributed to India’s requirement for ferrosilicon that was generated domestically.

Annually, India imports around 300,000MT of ferrosilicon from countries like Bhutan, China, and Norway. Today, Bhutanese ferrosilicon industries produce about 10,000MT to 12,000MT of ferrosilicon in a month.

Boulder was the second most exported Bhutanese product in 2019.

But surprisingly, the total export of boulder last year doubled to Nu 4.9B from Nu 2.1B the previous year. In 2017, boulder export was Nu 690 million (M), seventh among the top ten export commodities.

Export value of pebbles, gravel, broken or crushed stone increased to a whopping Nu 1.8B and become the third most exported commodities. In 2018, Bhutan recorded an export value of Nu 895M.

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