IMPORTS of farm products were about twice the country’s exports of the same commodities in the first quarter of the year.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that the country imported $2.76 billion worth of agricultural goods in the first quarter of the year, a 7% increase from the $2.57 billion in the same three months of last year.

In contrast, the country shipped out $1.38 billion worth of farm products in the January to March period, a 21.3% increase from $1.14 billion in the same period last year.

As a result, the country registered a first-quarter deficit of $1.38 billion in its external trade of farm products. This was 4.3% below the $1.44 billion registered in the comparable period.

Despite the deficit, agriculture comprised only 10.63% of the country’s $38.9 billion worth of external trade in the first quarter of this year.

Among its major trading partners, the Philippines incurred its biggest agriculture trade deficit with ASEAN at $785 million, followed by the US at $302 million; Australia, $110 million; and the EU, $15 million.

The Philippines however enjoyed its biggest trade surplus with Japan at $103 million.

Animal and vegetable oil and fat comprise the Philippines’ top agriculture export at $522.94 million, but this commodity is also the country’s fourth top import at $250.31 million. This means the Philippines is a net exporter of this product to the tune of $272.63 million.

Other top agricultural exports are edible fruit and nuts ($222.36 million), preparations of vegetables, fruits and nuts ($137.37 million), preparations of meat ($95.89 million), and fish and other seafood ($89.90 million).

The country’s top farm import is cereal at $530.18 million, but it also ships out $69.69 million worth of the commodity. As such, the country is a net importer of cereals to the tune of $460.49 million.

Besides cereal, the country’s other top imports include miscellaneous edible preparations ($322.83 million), residues and waste from the food industries ($305.15 million), and dairy produce ($236.10 million). — with Mark T. Amoguis