THE deficit in the trade of agricultural goods expanded 36.6% year on year in the fourth quarter to $3.22 billion, according to preliminary data issued by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

In a report, the PSA said that the overall trade in agriculture — or the sum of exports and imports — increased 5.1% to $6.32 billion during the quarter, slowing from the 17.6% growth posted a year earlier.

Agricultural imports grew 14.9% to $4.77 billion in the fourth quarter, up from 13.9% a year earlier. This accounted for 14.9% of all imports during the quarter.

Among the commodity groups, cereals accounted for $924.56 or 19.4% of agricultural imports. This was followed by residues and waste from the food industries and prepared animal fodder with $606.40 million; and meat and edible meat offal $510.67.

During the quarter, agricultural imports from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) accounted for 17% or $1.57 billion of overall farm imports.

Indonesia was the main source of agricultural imports in the region with $481.52 million.

Animal or vegetable fats and oils and their cleavage products worth $392.76 million were the top imported agricultural goods from ASEAN.

Exports of agricultural goods fell 15% year on year during the quarter to $1.55 billion.

Agricultural exports to ASEAN amounted to $179.99 million or 6% of all farm trade. Malaysia was the main buyer of Philippine agricultural exports in the region at $65.21 million.

Tobacco and manufactured tobacco substitutes were the top agricultural exports to ASEAN. This was followed by animal or vegetable fats and oils and their cleavage products; prepared edible fats; and animal or vegetable waxes worth $64.33 million; and miscellaneous edible preparations worth $16.90 million.

In Europe, Spain was the main source of agricultural imports worth $105.51 million while Spain was also the top destination of agricultural exports worth $160.07 million. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera