By Jamie McGeever and Gabriel Ponte
BRASILIA (Reuters) -Brazil posted a trade surplus of $1.5 billion in March, figures showed on Thursday, less than half the consensus forecast in a Reuters poll for a $3.1 billion surplus and also sharply down from the $3.8 billion surplus in the same month last year.
Exports in March totaled $24.5 billion and imports were $23.0 billion, the ministry said, adding that total trade flows of $47.5 billion in the month were up almost 40% from a year earlier.
These figures mean Brazil’s trade surplus in the first quarter of the year totaled $1.6 billion, sharply down from the $4.5 billion surplus a year ago as import growth outpaced export growth.
Lucas Ferraz, foreign trade secretary at the Economy Ministry, predicted the trade surplus this year will grow by almost 75% from last year, resulting in a record annual surplus of almost $90 billion.
Speaking to reporters in a virtual press conference, Ferraz said exports should grow 27% this year, more than double the expected 11% increase in import growth.
The central bank last week revised up its 2021 trade surplus forecast to $70 billion from $53 billion. Last year’s surplus was $51 billion.
With the exchange rate having slumped 30% last year and already down 8% in the first three months of this year, net trade is expected to make a positive contribution to economic growth this year.
Imports grew faster than exports, however, in the first three months of the year. Exports in the January-March period totaled $55.6 billion, up 17% on the year, while imports of $54 billion were 25% higher than a year ago, ministry figures showed.
(Reporting by Jamie McGeever and Gabriel Ponte; editing by David Evans)