The current account deficit for September 2019 at $259 million would have sounded extremely outlandish a year ago. But it is happening. And it is primarily driven by the massive improvement in trade deficit - which has lately hit a multi-month low. Bulk of it is down to the import compression, as exports are still facing an uphill task, despite visible improvement in terms of quantity.
A way of looking at export performance is an increase of 2.76 percent year-on-year, which does not instill much hope, especially when it is not coming at the back of a high base. Factor in the massive rupee depreciation that has happened in the last year or so - and the criticism on overall export value growth does not seem entirely out of place.
Only that it may not be as bad as it seems from the outside. Textile exports, the heart line of Pakistan's exports, have done well enough to keep Pakistan's exports from plunging. Although, in value terms the textile exports have grown in line with overall growth at 2.9 percent year-on-year during 1QFY20, it is the quality within, that is heartening. Almost all of textile export growth is backed by volumetric growth in double digits - which is invaluable given the steep decline in commodity prices all around the globe.
Unit price of Pakistan's major export items have historically responded more closely with international oil prices, than to the rupee dollar parity. The oil prices have stayed low for quite a while, and a rebound in international commodity prices, does not seem a near-term proposition, as the global economic growth outlook has been revised downwards by most observers. This is where Pakistan will have to keep the pace up in terms of volumetric growth in textile production - especially in the value added category.
Both readymade garments and bed wear, have reported massive volumetric jump in exports by 37 an d24 percent year-on-year, respectively during 1QFY20. Together, they account for one-fourth of the country's total exports, and the continued growth is imperative, if Pakistan is to even maintain exports at previous year, as the prices have also dived sharply by 17-20 percent. It has to be said that while volumes I most textile categories are touching all-time highs, same is also true for unit prices.
Improved textile volumes do indicate the results of the industrial support package extended in January 2019. There have been some changes after July 2019, but the numbers continue to be strong. The government will have to continue to work closely with the industry players, in terms of refund issues - so as to keep the volumes coming.
The second largest exporting group, food has also performed well with a double digit increase year-on-year. The real deal is Pakistan's re-found mojo in the rice market, where Basmati and non-Basmati have staged a comeback. Fruits and vegetables too, have fetched good rates in the export market, and it would not hurt for the horticulture industry to be treated more seriously. The larger picture will still revolve around the global commodity price scene.