DESPITE reports on the country’s improving export performance, some exporters in Cebu are still reporting flat growth in the first half of the year, and official of the Philippine Exporters Confederation (Philexport-Cebu) said.

Philexport Cebu executive director Fred Escalona said some businesses still have not recovered from the global economic slowdown, an official from the Philippine Exporters Confederation (Philexport-Cebu) said.

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“There is a slight pick-up in the orders. However, it is erratic,” Philexport Cebu executive director Fred Escalona said in a phone interview Wednesday.

There may be players that are now doing well like those in the gift, toys and housewares (GTH) and fashion accessories sub-sectors but the furniture industry is still under pressure.

“There is still slow recovery in the furniture sector,” Escalona said, citing additional pressures like the salary issue and the appreciation of the peso.

Data from the Cebu Furniture and Industry Foundation (CFIF) showed that the first quarter volume of Cebu furniture exports dropped from 4,193 containers in 2008 to 2,754 in 2009 to 2,728 in 2010. Its annual volume last year dived from 14,964 in 2008 to just 8,537 containers.

Its total export bill in the first quarter of the year was valued at $19 million, according to the National Economic Development Authority (Neda) 7. Its export value in March was $6.5 million, down by 13 percent from $7.4 million in February but 32 percent higher compared with the $4.9 million in January.

Largest market

The export growth rate in the first quarter averaged 19 percent monthly.

The United States remained the largest market for Cebu furniture exports in the first quarter, covering $12 million or 64 percent of total exports. Other markets included Japan, the Netherlands, Ireland, Germany, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Italy, Australia and Saudi Arabia, with shares of less than five percent each of total exports for the same period.

The report also said that Japan, South Korea, Australia and Saudi Arabia are the best markets for Cebu furniture industries since exports to these markets have consistently been growing from January to March.

The fastest growing market is Saudi Arabia, with exports to the kingdom going up in March to $170,000 from $3,000 in February.

Exporter Pete Delantar of Nature’s Legacy said buyers are still cautious, as seen in their orders.

“Orders have come back but are unpredictable,” he said.