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Indonesia reports trade deficit due to Ramadan imports of clothes, food

JAKARTA--Indonesia's trade balance swung to a slim deficit in June as imports of food and clothes rose ahead of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and Eid holiday, official data showed Monday.

The deficit in Southeast Asia's top economy came in at US$305 million, compared to a slim surplus of US$70 million the previous month, according to the data from the national statistics agency.

People in the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation typically splash out on expensive food to break the fasting during Ramadan, and on lavish clothes to wear to celebrate Eid.

Imports rose to US$15.72 billion, up by 0.54 percent from a year earlier.

The trade balance was hit at the start of the year by a controversial ban on the export of some unprocessed mineral ores introduced in January, plunging to a deficit of almost US$2 billion in April.

However exports picked up in June, rising 4.5 percent on year, as shipments of refined mineral products increased, helping to offset the increase in imports.

“There has been a shift from raw mineral to refined mineral exports which led to an increase in exports,” said agency chief Suryamin, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

Ensuring a healthy trade balance is a key economic challenge for Indonesia's president-elect Joko Widodo, who was last month declared the winner of a tight race to lead the world's third-biggest democracy.

It is a key part of the current account, which has in recent times suffered large deficits, putting pressure on the rupiah and causing major concern for investors.

Inflation meanwhile eased to 4.53 percent on-year in July, compared to 6.70 percent in June, continuing a downward trend following a sharp rise last year caused by a hike in fuel prices.

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