The highest on record, $51.4 billion, was posted in 2010.
Earnings for the first 11 months of 2012 reached $48 billion, slightly lower than $48.3 billion recorded for the whole of 2011. Another $3.5 to $4 billion in December sales is needed to hit the target and set a record growth of 7 to 8% for 2012, a commendable performance in a global trade climate that has gone stale.
But achieving growth is still a big challenge, especially if one were to look at the sector’s record for the past seven years against targets set by the Export Development Council (EDC) of receipts doubling to more than $100 billion by 2016.
Erratic could best describe the performance of the export sector since 2006. It trekked the growth path for two successive years to earn $50.4 billion in 2007. But when the real estate bubble in the United States triggered off a financial tsunami worldwide, exports retreated to $49.5 billion the following year. It shrank deeper to $38.4 billion in 2009, the lowest recorded in the past decade.
A quick recovery pulled off by the electronics industry at the turn of the decade brought back exports to above the $50-billion level with $51.4 billion total sales in 2010. But it dipped again to $48.3 billion in 2011.
Last year’s figures, expected to hit at least $52 billion, are seen as a reflection of sterling performance amidst a global slowdown. But can it be sustained?
To meet its target of doubling exports by 2016, the EDC must be able to coax the industry to grow by at least 15% a year in the next three years. That almost happened in the 1990’s when exports grew at double-digit rates for eight successive years. Then, the highest reached was 16% a year.