JAKARTA - Indonesia booked its smallest trade surplus in nine months in February as imports came in stronger than expected, while exports slumped, data from the statistics bureau showed on Friday.

Its trade surplus last month was around $870 million, below the $2.32 billion expected by economists polled by Reuters and January's $2 billion surplus. The February surplus was the smallest since May 2023.

Resource-rich Indonesia is the world's biggest exporter of coal, palm oil and nickel.

A drop in commodity prices last year pressured its external balance. This year, exports may also have been affected by delays in the government's issuance of mining permits, which have disrupted activities in coal, nickel and tin mines, among others.

In February, exports dropped 9.45% from a year earlier to $19.31 billion, more than the 6.5% predicted in the poll.

Shipments of Indonesia's biggest export products, coal and palm oil, were each down 18.7% and nearly 40%, respectively, year-on-year by value.

Imports were worth $18.44 billion in February, up 15.84% from a year earlier, against market expectations for a 9.3% increase, with the biggest rise recorded for imports of machinery, plastic, and electrical equipments.

(Reporting by Gayatri Suroyo, Stefanno Sulaiman and Ananda Teresia; Editing by Martin Petty and Jacqueline Wong)