By Chijioke Ohuocha
LAGOS Dec 1 (Reuters) – Nigerian exports climbed 29 percent in the third quarter, official figures showed on Thursday, lifted by crude sales to India and the U.S. that helped cut a widening trade deficit in Africa’s largest economy.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said the trade deficit narrowed to minus 104.14 billion naira in the third quarter, from 484.23 billion naira in the previous quarter, due to the rise in exports which went from $342.5 million to $1.59 billion.
The recession in Nigeria deepened in the third quarter as oil output fell due to militant attacks in its crude-producing Niger Delta and global prices remained low, choking the economy of much needed dollars to fund imports.
Oil production averaged 1.63 million barrels per day between July to September, down from 1.69 million in the second quarter. The government’s budget calculations are based on 2.2 million barrels of oil production per day.
The presidency said in September that India wanted to buy more crude oil from Nigeria, quoting India’s vice president as saying during a visit to Abuja.
“The structure of Nigeria’s export trade is still dominated by crude oil exports,” the statistics office said in its report.
President Muhammadu Buhari has pledged to diversify government revenues to protect the economy from oil price shocks and broaden the tax base. However, results are yet to materialise.
The government is struggling to secure much needed funds to cover a shortfall in its record 6.06 trillion naira budget for 2016 as oil revenues decline.
The NBS said crude exports accounted for 84.2 percent of export trade in the three months to September. It said total exports at 2.31 trillion naira were flat compared to a year ago, with India and United States accounting for more than 40 percent of export trade.
Total trade between July and September stood at 4.72 trillion naira, up 16.3 percent from the three months to June. Imports rose 6.2 percent in the third quarter to 2.41 trillion naira.
The bulk of Nigeria’s imports were machinery and transport equipment, chemicals and petroleum products. They came mostly from China, Belgium, Netherlands, United States and India. Intra African imports accounted for 3.6 percent of the total. ($1 = 304.00 naira) (Editing by Tom Heneghan)