New Delhi: Declining for 16th straight month in March, exports contracted by 5.47 percent to USD 22.71 billion in the month as shipments of petroleum and engineering products shrunk sharply due to tepid global demand.
For whole 2015-16 financial year ended March 31, exports declined by 15.8 percent to five-year low of USD 261.13 billion due to fragile global demand and low commodity prices.
Imports dipped by 15.28 percent to USD 379.6 billion in 2015-16, leaving a trade deficit of USD 118.45 billion. The trade gap was USD 137.69 billion in 2014-15.
The levels of exports and imports are the lowest since 2010-11. Exports and imports were at USD 245.86 billion and USD 350.69 billion, respectively, in 2010-11.
Also, trade deficit, the gap between imports and exports, in the last month of 2015-16 fiscal fell to five-year low of USD 5.07 billion as imports dropped 21.56 percent to USD 27.7 billion in the month.
Trade deficit was at USD 2.63 billion in December 2010.
The Commerce Ministry, however, said the trend of falling exports is in tandem with other major world economies.
But industry experts termed trade figures as "alarming" and demanded immediate steps to boost exports.
"The figures are alarming. Immediate steps like creating of a fund to enhance marketing activities need to be announced," Rafeeq Ahmed, former FIEO President and Chairman of Council for Leather Exports, said.
In March, overseas shipments of petroleum products shrank 21.43 percent to USD 2.07 billion, while that of engineering goods declined by 11.29 percent to USD 5.34 billion.
Oil imports in last month were valued at USD 4.79 billion - 35.3 percent lower than the same month last year. Non-oil imports too dipped by 17.92 percent to USD 22.98 billion.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said, "There are concerns about export growth which is declining consecutively for more than a year due to slowdown in global demand".
Non-petroleum exports in March were valued at USD 206.39 billion against USD 213.86 billion in March 2015, a reduction of 3.49 percent.
These exports during 2015-16 dipped by 8.52 percent to USD 231.95 billion.
"The growth in exports have fallen for USA (10.81 percent), European Union (7.40 percent), China (11.37 percent) and Japan (12.85 percent) for January 2016 over the corresponding period previous year as per WTO statistics," the commerce ministry said.
Oil imports during 2015-16 were valued at USD 82.66 billion which was 40.24 percent lower than the imports of USD 138.32 billion in the corresponding period last year.
Non-oil imports during the last fiscal dipped by 4.12 percent to USD 296.93 billion.
The ministry said that taking merchandise and services together, overall trade deficit for 2015-16 declined by 21.44 percent to USD 53.85 billion as compared to USD 68.55 billion in the same period last year.
The sectors which recorded negative growth in March include textiles, cotton yarn, leather, iron ore and marine products.
Sectors that registered positive growth include tea, plastic, handicrafts, carpet, pharmaceutical and gems and jewellery in March.