Exports up 1% in April, yet trade gap widens

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New Delhi: India’s goods exports grew 1.06% on-year to $34.99 billion in April, while the trade deficit widened to a four-month high driven by ballooning gold imports, official date released Wednesday showed.Trade deficit rose to $19.1 billion from $15.6 billion in March.Imports increased 10.3% on-year to $54.1 billion in the first month of FY25. Gold imports in April more-than-doubled to $3.11 billion from $1.53 billion the previous month.Officials said purchases by the central bank, final consumer, and jewellers had pushed up gold imports.Switzerland has replaced Russia as the top source for India’s overall imports. “Nearly half of the widening in the aggregate merchandise trade deficit between April 2023 and April 2024 was on account of the surge in the value of gold imports amid the rise in global prices,” said Aditi Nayar, chief economist, ICRA.Centre optimisticGoods exports fell 16.1% month-on-month from March and officials attributed the decline to seasonality as outbound shipments in April are traditionally lower than March.”The start of the fiscal year is good. Electronics (exports) were the main driver. Chemicals, drugs and pharmaceuticals, and petroleum product exports have increased,” said commerce secretary Sunil Barthwal.Thirteen of the 30 key export sectors including handicraft, spices, coffee and plastics, grew in April compared to same period last year.”The ongoing Russia-Ukraine war coupled with major geo-political tensions including the Red Sea crisis and Israel-Hamas conflict have also made the international trade scenario much tougher for the Indian exporters,” said Ashwani Kumar, president, Federation of Indian Export Organisations. Petroleum imports rose 20% at $16.46 billion in April.As per the data, April 2024 saw the highest exports and imports witnessed in April over the last 10 years. Barthwal also said that India’s total export numbers in goods and services for 2023-24 has been revised to $778.21 billion, which is the “highest so far.” Merchandise exports in the last fiscal was aggregated at $437.1 billion, while services exports were $341.1 billion.FTA talksOfficials said that some progress is on in India’s FTA talks with the UK.”Our intention is to resolve the pending issues as quickly as possible,” said an official. After 13 rounds of negotiations, the 14th round of negotiations began in January 10, 2024. “Chapter wise textual negotiations are nearby closed and schedule on goods and services are at advanced stage of negotiations,” the official said.

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