Merchandise exports fell for the 14th consecutive month with shipments in January, 2016 contracting 13.6 per cent year-on-year to $21 billion due to weak overseas demand as well as fall in major export items such as engineering goods and petroleum products.
Imports also fell during the month by 11 per cent to $28.7 billion, resulting in the trade deficit narrowing to an 11-month low of $7.6 billion.
The trade deficit would have been lower had the gold imports not recorded an 85.16 per cent increase in January to $2.91 billion.
Releasing the data, the commerce ministry said: “The trend of falling exports is in tandem with other major world economies. The growth in exports have fallen for U.S.A. (-10.51%), European Union (-9.48%) and China (-7.01%) for November 2015 over the corresponding period previous year as per WTO statistics.”
Seventeen of the 30 export sectors recorded a negative growth in January. These included major sectors such as engineering goods (-27.6 per cent to $4.98 billion), ready-made garments (-6.1 per cent to $1.4 billion) and petroleum products (-35.1 per cent to $1.9 billion). Non-petroleum exports in January 2016 fell 10.55 per cent to $19.1 billion.
Merchandise exports during April 2015-January 2016 this fiscal registered a negative growth of 17.65 per cent over the same period in the previous fiscal to $217.7 billion. President of the exporters’ apex body, FIEO, S. C. Ralhan, said the country may end up with merchandise exports of around $260 billion in 2015-16.
Engineering exporters body, EEPC India, Chairman T. S. Bhasin said, “Over-valuation of rupee, after adjusting against the domestic retail inflation, is also eating into the competitiveness of the Indian exports. The fall in engineering exports will have a negative impact on jobs.”
Imports during April 2015-January 2016 recorded a negative growth of 15.46 per cent to $324.5 billion.
When compared to the contraction in overall exports, the fall in non-petroleum exports during April 2015 – January 2016 was lower at (-) 9.6 per cent to $192.4 billion.
Reflecting the fall in global oil prices, oil imports in January 2016 were 39 per cent lower year-on-year at $5 billion. However, non-oil imports during January, 2016 were only 1.4 per cent lower at $23.7 billion.
Oil imports during April-January 2015-16 were 41.4 per cent lower at $73 billion. However, non-oil imports during the period were only 2.95 per cent lower year-on-year at $251.4 billion.
The net export of services for April-December, 2015-16 was estimated at $54.8 billion, lower than $56.5 billion during April-December 2014-15. Taking merchandise and services together, overall trade deficit for April-January, 2015-16 was $52 billion, a fall of 17.6 per cent from $63 billion in same period the previous fiscal, the ministry said.