Growing for the second consecutive month, the country's exports rose 6.16 per cent year-on-year to USD 27.45 billion in January 2021 following healthy growth in pharma and engineering sectors, according to provisional data of the commerce ministry. Trade deficit during the month narrowed to USD 14.54 billion from USD 15.3 billion in January 2020. It was USD 15.44 billion in December 2020.
Imports in January 2021 rose 2 per cent to USD 42 billion. Exports of pharmaceuticals and engineering grew 16.4 per cent (USD 2 billion), and about 19 per cent (USD 7.4 billion), respectively, the data showed. Other sectors which recorded growth included oil meals, iron ore, tobacco, rice, fruits and vegetables, carpets, handicrafts, spices, tea, cashew, plastic and chemicals. Export sectors which recorded negative growth included petroleum products (-32 per cent), ready-made garments of all textiles (-10.73 per cent), and leather (-18.6 per cent).
In December 2020, the country's merchandise exports had recorded a growth of 0.14 per cent. Imports of gold jumped by about 155 per cent to USD 4 billion in January this year. Other import segments which recorded growth were pulses, pearls, precious and semi-precious stones, cotton raw and waste, vegetable oil, chemicals, and machine tools. However, cumulatively exports during April-January 2020-21 contracted by 13.58 per cent to USD 228.25 billion as against USD 264.13 billion during the same period last year, the data showed.
Similarly, imports dropped by about 26 per cent to USD 300.26 billion during April-January this fiscal. In January 2021, oil imports were USD 9.40 billion, as compared to USD 13.01 billion in January 2020, a decline by 27.72 per cent. Oil imports in April-January 2020-21 were USD 63.09 billion, as against USD 109.72 billion in April-January 2019-20, showing a decline of 42.5 per cent.
Commenting on the numbers, Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) President S K Saraf said negative growth in exports of major products including petroleum products, leather, meat, dairy and poultry products, and gems and jewellery, which are major constituents of the export basket and mainly related to labour-intensive sectors, have been of key concern during the month. He urged the government to soon notify the RoDTEP rates, which will remove uncertainty from the minds of the trade and industry thereby helping them forge new contracts with overseas buyers.