Based on the figures published by the Economic Development Board (EDB) on Friday (24 April), Singapore’s factory output experienced a recovery in March.
Manufacturing output last month was not highly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but a stronger impact might begin from April, partly caused by the erected circuit breaker measures, EDB warned.
Pharmaceutical output, which has a low base in 2019, increased after the decline by the revised figure of 0.7 per cent in February. Due to this, manufacturing activity in March rose 16.5 per cent over the same month in 2019.
Factory output remained unchanged except for biomedical manufacturing output.
Manufacturing output rose 21.7 per cent based on a seasonally adjusted month-on-month basis. This is a reverse from the 22.1 per cent decline in February over the previous month.
Compared to the same period in 2019, biomedical manufacturing output increased 91.4 per cent in March. Higher production of active pharmaceutical ingredients and biological products also fuelled pharmaceuticals output to increase by 12.6.6 per cent. Higher export demand for medical devices also led to the increase of the medical technology segment by 6.3 per cent.
The next big increase came from the growth in precision engineering output by 21.2 per cent last month. This growth was mainly driven by the 28.7 per cent increase in the machinery and systems due to the higher output of semiconductor equipment.
On the whole, there was a 20.6 per cent growth in the precision engineering cluster from January to March, compared to the same period last year.
Furthermore, transport engineering output rose by 7.6 per cent year-on-year in March. There was a 15.2 per cent and 11.9 per cent increase in the land transport segment and aerospace segment, respectively. Repair and maintenance activity levels were higher for the commercial airlines in the aerospace segment. However, due to lower work level done in offshore projects, the marina and offshore engineering segment dropped 0.7 per cent.
Compared to the same period in 2019, the transport engineering cluster in the first three months this year grew overall by 3.2 per cent.
As for the chemical clusters, output increased by 0.8 per cent last month, fuelled by the increase in petroleum refining throughput by 30.9 per cent after the maintenance shutdowns in 2019.
The increased production of industrial gases and additives caused the specialties segment to grow 8.8 per cent whereas other chemical segments grew 5.9 per cent due to increased output of fragrances.
Nonetheless, there was a 7.2 per cent contraction in the petrochemical segment. Compared to the same period last year, output of the chemicals cluster dropped 0.1 per cent within the first three months of 2020.
Looking at general manufacturing output, there was a decline by 7.9 per cent last month, unlike the other clusters which saw output fell. These clusters include the tobacco, food and beverage segments as well as the miscellaneous industries and printing.
Also, electronic output recorded a drop by 9.2 per cent, and all segments in the cluster also saw decline. On the whole, compared to the same period last year, output of the electronics cluster dropped 10.5 per cent within the first three months of 2020.