German exports rise again despite slowdown fears

German exports increased for the third month in a row, data published Wednesday showed, despite fears that Europe's largest economy could soon pitch into recession.

A container ship stands at the terminals in the port of Hamburg for clearance in May 2022.
A container ship stands at the terminals in the port of Hamburg for clearance in May 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Axel Heimken

Germany exported €134.3 billion worth of goods in June, 4.5 percent more than in May, according to seasonally adjusted figures from the federal statistics agency Destatis.

The closely watched indicator was 18.4 percent higher than in June last year.

Germany’s trade balance remained positive at €6.4 billion, with the total value of goods imported in June sitting at €127.9 billion.

Exports to EU countries were rose by 3.9 percent from May, while those to other countries rose by 5.3 percent.

Exports to Russia increased by 14.5 percent between May and June, albeit from a relatively low base.

The export figure for June was 40.3 percent below its level in 2021 with trade collapsing after Western countries slapped tariffs on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine in February.

Despite the overall improvement, businesses have reported pessimism about the outlook for the Germany’s export-driven economy.

A survey published by the German Ifo Institute last week showed their export expectations had dropped.

The darkening business climate also suggested that Germany was “on the cusp of a recession”, said think-tank president Clemens Fuest.

The German economy stagnated between April and June, registering growth of zero percent, according to official figures published last week.

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German consumers warned to expect higher food prices

Groceries in Germany have already shot up in price by more than 16.6 percent compared to a year ago. But industry bosses expect prices to rise further - although they say they are fighting against unreasonable increases from large corporations.

German consumers warned to expect higher food prices

Life in Germany is getting significantly more expensive. As The Local reported this week, German inflation climbed again in August to 7.9 percent, according to the federal statistics agency Destatis. It came after consumer prices fell slightly in June and July. 

Energy prices, which have taken off since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, have had a “substantial impact on the high inflation rate”, Destatis said. Costs for household electricity and fuel rose by 35.6 percent in August 2022 compared to the same month a year ago.

However, food prices are also heavily affected – they have increased by around 16.6 percent, according to initial figures. 

The graph below by Destatis shows changes in consumer prices. 

Source: Destatis

READ ALSO: German inflation rises again as energy costs soar

According to retail giant Rewe, consumers in Germany will have to brace themselves for even higher food prices.

“We are currently seeing new price increases from manufacturers every week,” said Rewe CEO Lionel Souque on Wednesday ahead of a business event in Düsseldorf, reported Germany’s Tagesschau.

These increases are down to rising energy and raw material costs, as well as logistics and staff costs. 

However, Souque said that not every price increase is implemented. 

“We don’t wave through every price increase, but check whether it is reasonable,” he said.

Souque said the retail giant flights back if bosses feel the markups are not justified. Among multinational consumer goods manufacturers in particular, there are some looking to profit from the current price wave, he said.

“We are fighting against that,” the Rewe boss said. “Many multinationals are making more dividend income than they did last year.”

“Many (firms) come and announce price increases of 10 percent, and say Rewe should pass that on to the customer,” Souque reported.

“That’s totally unrealistic.”

He said that the majority of suppliers are behaving reasonably. “But we have a problem with the very large manufacturers who have the power to enforce demands,” he added.

READ ALSO: ‘€10-€15 for groceries’ -How price hikes are hitting consumers in Germany

Competitor Edeka has also warned its suppliers against excessive price demands.

“Food must not become a luxury good,” Edeka CEO Markus Mosa previously said.

Rewe has already announced that it would not pass on all the increases to customers, and would therefore accept an impact on profits.

Change in consumers’ behaviour

Rising inflation also has consequences for consumers’ shopping behaviour.

Customers in Germany have been switching from branded products to supermarkets’ own brands, and they are paying more attention to promotional prices.

There is also trend towards discounters, said Rewe boss Souque. The Rewe subsidiary and discounter Penny, for example, is currently doing better in terms of sales than in the previous year, he said.