Jakarta. Indonesia has posted a trade surplus for two consecutive months in March as commodities exports to China, the country's main trading partner, picked up after the world's second-largest economy resume economic activity following weeks of lockdown to contain Covid-19 pandemic.
Southeast Asia largest economy recorded $743 million in the trade surplus, down from $2.6 billion in February, as import activities with China were also picking up to compensate order backlogs from the previous period, data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) showed on Wednesday.
Still, the March's surplus rose 11 percent from the $671 million in the same month last year.
The total export in March worth $14.1 billion, barely matched the performance a year earlier. Imports declined 0.8 percent to $13.4 billion from a year ago.
"In March 2020, our exports to China increased by $103.6 million to $1.98 billion from $1.87 billion in February," Suhariyanto, the head of BPS, said.
"The main commodities exported from Indonesia to China include mineral fuels, iron, and steel, then vegetable fats and oils," he said.
Import from China also increased by 66 percent from February to $2.98 billion, Suhariyanto. Indonesia mostly shipped in transmission apparatus, portable receivers, laptops, and fruits.
The result means Indonesia ended the first quarter with a trade surplus, which has been elusive for the past twelve months.
Bank Indonesia, the country central bank, said earlier that Indonesia's current account deficit — a broader measure which also includes service trade, remittance, and income transfer — to narrow to below 1.5 percent of the country gross domestic product, from 2.8 percent earlier.
BI Governor Perry Warjiyo said that was in part due to a "decline in domestic demand and lower need for inputs for export-oriented production."
The export performance also supported rupiah. The country currency that has strengthened in recent days as exporters bring home their export proceeds. Rupiah was traded at 15,707 against the US dollar on Wednesday, having appreciated by 6.2 percent from its historic low of 16,741 against the greenback early this month.
"Rupiah is still undervalued. It will continue to move stronger and stable towards 15,000 per US dollar by the end of 2020," Perry said.
Bank Indonesia also kept its benchmark rate at 4.5 percent on Tuesday, citing a need to maintain rupiah stability amid uncertainty in the global financial markets.