Turkish trade hindered by earthquakes and adverse calendar impact in April

Türkiye’s foreign trade deficit widened in April as exports fell due to the prolonged effect of the devastating earthquakes that struck the country’s southeast in early February and an adverse calendar impact from a religious holiday.

Exports dropped 17.2% year-over-year last month to $19.3 billion, while imports declined 4.5% to $28.2 billion, suggested preliminary data from the Trade Ministry on Tuesday. The trade deficit rose 44% annually to $8.9 billion.

The negative impact of the earthquakes that killed more than 50,000 people, flattened hundreds of thousands of buildings and inflicted severe infrastructural damage continued in April, albeit at an easing pace, the Trade Ministry said in a statement.

It emphasized that the adverse calendar effect has partly influenced the fall in outbound shipments. It cited fewer working days in April due to Ramadan, which led to a notable drop in production and exports, especially during the Thursday-Saturday period when exports are typically at their highest.

“We think that the decrease in our exports in April is short-term and temporary,” said Mustafa Gültepe, head of the Turkish Exporters Assembly (TIM).

“Despite everything, I believe that by evaluating the next eight months in the best possible way, we will wrap up 2023 with the best possible export figures,” Gültepe said in a statement.

The January-April exports dropped by 3% year-over-year to $80.9 billion, the data suggested, with the four-month trade deficit rising by 33.3% to $43.5 billion.

Easing prices helped pull down energy imports by 35.8% year-over-year in April to about $5 billion, according to the data. Energy has accounted for a major part of Türkiye’s imports and trade deficit.

Gold purchases, which played an important role in soaring imports in the first quarter, rose by 174% annually to $1.3 billion.

Gültepe said the foreign exchange parity had a positive impact after a long period. “In April, the parity effect provided a surplus value of $152 million. However, since the beginning of the year, we have lost $972 million due to the parity effect,” he added.

Automotive topped the list among sectors with $2.7 billion worth of exports in April, followed by chemicals with $2.4 billion, ready-to-wear with $1.5 billion, electronics with $1.2 billion and steel with $1.1 billion.

Sales to Türkiye’s top market Germany amounted to nearly $1.6 billion. It was followed by exports to the U.S. at $1.16 billion and Iraq at $970 million, the data revealed.

Exports to European Union reached $8.13 billion, while sales to Near and Far Eastern countries stood at $3.21 billion.

Imports from Russia totaled nearly $.4.18 billion. Purchases from China and Germany followed with $3.69 billion and $2.18 billion, respectively.