Singapore factory output surges 13% in April, propped up again by biomedical manufacturing

Singapore's manufacturing output jumped 13 per cent on a year-on-year basis in April 2020. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Biomedical manufacturing was the main bright spot in Singapore's factory production for April, propping up the sector's surprising recovery for a second straight month.

Singapore's manufacturing output rose 13 per cent on a year-on-year basis in April, according to data released by the Economic Development Board (EDB) on Tuesday (May 26). This follows a 16.5 per cent year-on-year jump in factory production in March.

However, excluding biomedical manufacturing, overall output in April fell 3.5 per cent, due to Covid-19 related measures both locally and globally, EDB said.

The robust growth in the biomedical manufacturing cluster, which expanded 100.5 per cent in April compared with the same period last year, was largely due to the pharmaceuticals segment.

Higher production of active pharmaceutical ingredients and biological products drove a 141.3 per cent increase in the pharmaceuticals segment.

Overall, the biomedical manufacturing cluster grew 62.2 per cent from January to April this year, compared with the same period last year.

Biomedical manufacturing was the key driver for Singapore's 6.6 per cent year-on-year manufacturing growth in the first three months of the year, according to data released by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) on Tuesday.

The cluster's robust performance, on the back of a surge in pharmaceutical production activity, was a main contributor to the manufacturing sector's turnaround after three consecutive quarters of contraction, MTI said.

Biomedical manufacturing is expected to remain resilient and expand in coming months, despite the overall gloominess surrounding the global economy.

The precision engineering cluster provided a smaller boost to manufacturing growth in April, with output expanding 5.9 per cent compared with the same month last year.

A higher production of semiconductor equipment led to a 10.3 per cent surge in the machinery and systems segment.

On the other hand, the precision modules and component segment shrank 5.6 per cent due to dampened demand and disrupted operations in Singapore and its key export markets, amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Overall, the precision engineering cluster saw a 16.5 per cent growth between January and April, compared with the same period last year.

The key electronics sector, which accounts for about two-fifths of total production, eked out a 0.8 per cent year-on-year increase in output in April. It was supported by growth in the semiconductors segment, despite contraction in the other segments.

Overall output for the electronics cluster fell 7.4 per cent in the first four months of the year compared with the same period in 2019.

Meanwhile, the transport engineering cluster was the worst hit in April, with output plunging 24.1 per cent year-on-year in April, with declines recorded across the board.

Lower repair and maintenance activities with airlines grounding aircraft amid the virus pandemic led to a 28.1 per cent contraction in the aerospace segment.

The cluster saw a 3.7 per cent fall between January and April this year, compared with the same period last year.

The chemicals and general manufacturing clusters also recorded year-on-year declines in April.

General manufacturing output contracted 20.2 per cent in April, due to softer export demand and scaling down of production during the circuit breaker period.

The chemicals cluster was weighed down by plant maintenance shutdowns and a slowdown in demand due to lockdowns in key export markets as part of Covid-19 containment measures.

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