SEOUL - South Korea’s export kept falling for four straight months through March on lower price of semiconductors, which had led the country’s outbound shipment, and global economic slowdown, a government report showed Monday.

Export, which accounts for about half of the export-driven economy, amounted to 47.11 billion U.S. dollars in March, down 8.2 percent from a year earlier, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

Import retreated 6.7 percent over the year to 41.89 billion dollars in March, sending the trade surplus to 5.22 billion dollars. The trade balance stayed in the black for 86 months in a row.

The outbound shipment continued to slide since December last year amid lower chip price and the global economic slump, caused by protectionist moves, the ministry noted.

The export reduction was also attributable to the record-high March export of 51.31 billion dollars tallied in March last year. The daily export averaged 2.09 billion dollars in March, down 4.1 percent from a year earlier.

The ministry forecast that the export would improve in April given the slower falling rate of export from 11.4 percent in February to 8.2 percent in March.

In terms of volume, export shed 0.9 percent in March from a year earlier. During the January-March quarter, export volume grew 1.5 percent, keeping an upward momentum for two straight quarters.

Leading the export fall, semiconductor saw its outbound shipment tumble 16.6 percent in March from a year earlier on the continued price fall and the seasonally weak demand for chips used in smartphones.

Petrochemical shipment declined 10.7 percent on an increase in U.S. product supply that led to lower price.

General machinery export shed 1.3 percent on soft demand from China, and automotive shipment dipped 1.2 percent on weak sales of some models scheduled for discontinuation.

Oil product shipment lost 1.3 percent on stiffer competition especially in Asia, and steel export shrank 4.6 percent amid the global economic slowdown.

Export for telecommunication devices, such as smartphone, plunged 32.3 percent on fiercer competition, and display panel shipment slipped 16.3 percent on lower product price and weak demand.

The bio healthcare sector saw its export grow for two straight months on demand for locally-developed biosimilars and ultrasonic diagnostic equipment.