Biomedical manufacturing cushions Singapore’s monthly factory production

Singapore's skyline

Singapore’s monthly factory output numbers--a bellwether for the region’s economic health--got a big boost from the biomedical manufacturing sector.

Although factory output dipped 0.5% in March when compared to the same month a year ago, a 23.1% increase in biomedical production kept the overall number from hitting the 2% analysts had forecast, The Straits Times of Singapore reported.

Excluding output from the sometimes unpredictable biomedical sector, total output fell 5.5%, according to data from the country’s Economic Development Board released this week.

The pharmaceutical industry provided the biggest push within the biomedical sector, surging 27.9% in March. However, analysts cautioned that pharma manufacturing is prone to month-to-month peaks and valleys depending on where they are in the drug production cycle.

“Most drugmakers produce active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), and can churn out only one batch of APIs at a time,”  Irvin Seah, an economist, told the publication. “When they change their product mix, they have to shut down their plants for sterilization for about a month.”

Still, API orders tend to be very large so when the plants are running, they do so at full capacity, Seah added.

Total factory output has declined for 12 of the past 13 months, seeing only a 1.1% year-on-year gain in January.

- here’s The Straits Times story

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