Romania’s exports soared by 20.1% year-on-year in March, reaching a new all-time record of €6.53bn, the statistics office INS announced.
The y/y growth was partly propped up by low base effects one year after the lockdown froze the global supply chains in the first quarter of 2021, particularly in March, but remains impressive nonetheless, as it represents a 3.2% annual advance compared to March 2019 (two years earlier). The chronic wide deficit overclouds the strong performance of exporters, largely because of the expansion of Romania’s two car factories, Dacia and Ford, despite the semiconductor crisis.
For the whole first quarter of the year, the exports rose by 3.9% y/y to €17.7bn.
The 6.5% increase in the export of transport means (automobiles, mainly), which accounted for nearly half of total exports in the quarter, made a critical contribution of 3.2pp to the overall 3.9% y/y advance.
Meanwhile, imports increased faster than exports: only marginally faster (+20.6% y/y) to €8.8bn in March but nearly twice as fast as exports (+7.1% y/y) to €23.1bn in the whole quarter.
Again, the category of transport means (not limited to automobiles) — 37% of total imports in Q1 — contributed a significant 3.4pp to the overall 7.1% y/y rise of imports. Romanian municipalities are importing significant amounts of public transport means and the construction sector needs transport means as well.
The robust rise of imports, also supported by buoyant retail sales (+4.1% y/y in Q1 after a record 9.1% y/y increase in March), particularly of non-food consumer goods, resulted in a record trade gap as well: €5.33bn in Q1, 19.3% more than that in the first quarter of 2020 when the trade gap also marked a robust (+20% y/y) advance.
Notably, the imports generated by the domestic demand for investments under the Recovery and Resilience Fund (RRF) have not begun yet, but they are expected to further push up the country’s trade gap.