German exports tumbled by 11.8% in March, their steepest drop since current records began in 1990, as the coronavirus crisis reduced demand for goods from Europe's biggest economy, the Federal Statistics Office said.
Seasonally adjusted imports fell by 5.1% and the trade surplus narrowed to €12.8 billion from a downwardly revised €21.4 billion in the previous month, the office said.
Economists polled by Reuters had expected exports to fall by 5% and saw imports down 4%. The trade surplus was expected to come in at €18.9 billion.
The German government expects the economy, which has traditionally been dependent on exports, is expected to shrink by a post-World War Two record of 6.3% despite a massive rescue package of €750 billion to cushion the impact of the pandemic.
Economists expect any recovery to be slow and the pace of an economic rebound will largely depend on how fast Germany's European neighbours and other trade partners like China and the US emerge from the crisis.
"The interdependence of the global economy will be fatal for the export sector during the coronavirus crisis," Alexander Krueger of Bankhaus Lampe wrote in a note, adding that the worst was still to come.