Jakarta. Indonesia's trade balance returned to the black last month because imports from China dropped by almost half as the world's second-largest economy dealt with the peak of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Indonesia, which started to see the beginning of the pandemic on its shores this month, posted a trade surplus of $2.3 billion in February compared to a $637 million deficit in January, according to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS).
It was Indonesia's first surplus in eight months and the largest since 2011.
"The surplus of $2.34 billion in February 2020 was mainly due to a significant decline in import performance. On the other hand, exports from Indonesia have increased," Yunita Rusanti, the deputy of statistics, distribution and services at BPS, said on Monday.
Total import was down 5.1 percent to $11.6 billion last month compared to the same month a year earlier.
Non-oil and gas shipments from China, where Indonesia sources around a third of its raw materials, fell 35 percent to $1.95 billion in total value from $3.01 million a year ago. On a month-to-month basis, imports from China fell almost 50 percent from January.
"Indonesia's imports from China dropped mainly in machinery and electronic equipment, which fell 45 percent on a month-to-month basis, machinery and mechanical equipment [34 percent] and plastics and plastic goods [65 percent]," Yunita said.
Total exports, on the other hand, managed to rise to $13.9 billion, an 11 percent increase from the same month in 2019.
Indonesia also saw a 28 percent jump in non-oil and gas exports to the United States to $1.6 billion last month and a 22 percent increase to $3.6 billion in shipments to neighboring Southeast Asian countries.
Export to China was also on the rise on a year-on-year basis despite booking a slight dip compared to January's shipment.
China bought $1.8 billion worth of Indonesian merchandise last month, up 21 percent compared to the previous year but down 11 percent from January's $2.1 billion exports.
Yunita said the dip was due to the Chinese buying less iron and steel, which fell 26 percent month-to-month.
Copper export to China also fell 57 percent from January, while pulp and wood export was down 19 percent, Yunita said.
China remains Indonesia's largest export destination, accounting for more than 15 percent of its total non-oil and gas export.
In stark contrast, Indonesia saw its export to Europe, with which it has been waging a trade dispute in palm oil, drop 1.4 percent to $1.09 billion.