By Emil Danielyan
Armenia’s exports have continued to grow strongly this year despite unexpected losses posted by the export-oriented domestic mining industry, according to official statistics.
Data from the National Statistical Service (NSS) shows the total volume of exports soaring by 17.8% to $439.5 million in the first four months of this year.
The sharp gain contrasted with sizable decreases in revenue from the country’s most important export items: copper, molybdenum and other base metals as well as metal ore concentrates. The NSS registered a 16% year-on-year fall in exports of non-ferrous metals that totaled $107 million in January-April. Exports of ores were likewise down by about 8 percent at $111 million.
The reason for these losses is not clear. According to the NSS, output in the Armenian mining and metallurgical sectors rose by roughly 15 percent and 10% respectively in the four month period.
Both sectors have been a major driving force behind Armenia’s ongoing slow recovery from a severe recession in 2009. They have strongly benefited from a sharp rise in international metal prices in 2010 and 2011.
Their export under performance was more than offset by other sectors of the Armenian economy, notably food processing, Armenia exported almost $66 million worth of prepared foodstuffs and beverages in January-April, up by 41.4% year on year.
The NSS also reported a 45 fold jump in exports in transport equipment worth about $50 million. The government agency did not specify that equipment. Export revenue from machines and other industry equipment nearly tripled to $23.7 million.
Despite the robust growth Armenian exports continued to be dwarfed by imports, which stood at $1.3 billion in January-April, a year-on-year increase of 8.7%. The country’s massive trade deficits have long been financed, in large measure, by remittances from Armenians working abroad.
The Armenian government acknowledges that further growth in exports is essential for ensuring long-term economic development. The government approved last December a mid-term export promotion strategy that aims to gradually raise the annual volume of exports from $1.33 billion in 2011 to at least $5 billion in 2020.