Pandemic and lockdown sink Malaysia’s exports to lowest in a decade – dpa international


Social distancing rules applied on public transport in Kuala Lumpur (Simon Roughneen)

Social distancing rules applied on public transport in Kuala Lumpur (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s exports dropped 23.8 per cent year-on-year in April, the biggest fall for South-East Asia’s third richest economy since the height of the global financial crisis more than 10 years ago.

The government’s chief statistician Mohd Uzir Mahidin said on Thursday that April exports tallied “the largest decline since September 2009,” a slump he put down to Malaysia’s economy largely closing from March 18 to May 4 during a strictly-enforced lockdown aimed at stemming a rise in new coronavirus cases.

Malaysia’s total trade for April fell 16.4 per cent, which the Ministry for Trade and Industry said was due to “major disruptions to global supply chain” caused by the pandemic.

Key sectors such as oil and liquefied natural gas shrank by over 20 per cent each as global demand receded and prices fell. Also down by a fifth were electrical and electronics exports, hit hard by disruptions to global supply chains.

While Malaysia’s trade with Europe and North America dipped as the pandemic forced Western economies to emulate Malaysia’s lockdown, exports of palm oil and rubber products increased hugely – despite moves in Europe to phase out palm oil use due to the sector’s alleged links to deforestation and land grabs.

Malaysia is one of the world’s main sources of natural rubber and in turn has developed an industry that supplies around 65 per cent of rubber gloves used worldwide.

Demand for rubber medical gloves has surged due to the pandemic, with front-line medics facing potentially deadly shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE).

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