India's merchandise exports fell for the 13th straight month in December and were valued at $22. 29 billion against $26. 15 billion in the like month in the previous year, as per official trade data released on Monday.
Imports also fell during the month by 3. 88 percent to $33. 96 billion from $35. 33 billion, even as the trade deficit went up to $11. 66 billion from $9. 18 billion, as per official data released by the Commerce and Industry Ministry.
On the positive side, the continuing fall in the crude oil prices brought the import bill on this count down by 33. 19 percent to $6. 66 billion from $9. 96 billion, while the non - oil shipments to the country increased 7. 63 percent to $27. 30 billion from 25. 36 billion.
"The export figures, which reflected the continuous decline for more than over a year now, seems to be now gaining lost ground, " said S. C. Ralhan, president of the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO).
"As commodities and crude oil prices have more than 40 percent bearing on India's exports, this has further led to continuous decline in exports. Global demand also does not seem to be picking up, " he added.
"With only countries like US showing some signs of improvement, this does not augur well. "
Looking at the cumulative figures, exports during the first three quarters of the current fiscal were valued at $196. 60 billion down 18. 06 percent over previous year's $23. 99 billion and import fell 15. 87 percent to $29. 58 billion from $35. 16 billion.
Oil imports during the period declined 41. 60 percent to $68. 07 billion from $116. 56 billion and non - oil commodity shipments to the country were down 3. 11 percent lower at $227. 74 billion, as against $235. 05 billion.
Between the disappointing export numbers, the federation president sought to suggest that among the top 30 commodity groups traded in December, half the numbers saw a positive development in December, as against seven in the previous month.
"Export sectors including jute manufacturing, including floor covering, have shown an impressive growth of over 135 percent. Spices with 34 percent, handicraft (27 percent), tea (25 percent) and fruits and vegetables (24 percent) were some of the high export growth sectors. "
Ralhan urged the government to reconsider the inverted duty structure for "Make in India" scheme and sought service tax for exports, besides calling for the creation of fund with a corpus of 0. 5 - 1 percent of total export value to push India's merchandise shipments.