New Delhi: India's exports contracted for the 13th month in a row, dipping about 15 percent in December to USD 22.2 billion due to steep decline in engineering and petroleum shipments.
The total exports in 2015-16 will thus be lower than the previous fiscal's figure of USD 310.5 billion.
"On the same trend, it will certainly be much lower than the last year (2014-15)," Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia said.
There is a global slowdown and India is well integrated with the world economy and there would an impact of the slowdown on the exports, she told reporters here.
"There can be no effort to say that there has not been a decline in merchandise exports. This is the third year of consecutive slowdown," she said.
Imports shrank too - down 3.88 percent to USD 33.96 billion in December on yearly basis.
Gold imports shot up however pushing up the trade deficit to a 4-month high of USD 11.66 billion, as against USD 9.17 billion recorded in December 2014. The overall trade gap in August last year was USD 12.47 billion.
Gold imports rose to USD 3.80 billion last month, as against USD 1.36 billion in December 2014.
In December 2015, shipments of petroleum products shrank 47.69 percent to USD 2.36 billion, year-on-year, while that of iron ore declined by 69.54 percent to 21.24 million.
Last month also witnessed a decline in exports of engineering products -- down 15.68 percent at USD 5.82 billion. Gems and jewelery exports dipped by 7.75 percent.
The cumulative exports during the April-December period declined by 18.06 percent to USD 196.6 billion.
Imports too dipped by 15.87 percent to USD 295.8 billion, leaving a trade deficit of USD 99.2 billion. The trade gap was USD 111.68 billion in April-December 2014-15.
The Commerce Secretary, however, expressed hope that the incentives announced by the ministry including the 3 percent interest subsidy would help in supporting exporters.
Teaotia said that devaluation of the Chinese currency too would affect the cost of domestic products.
"It does affect competitiveness of products. (But) we are not really in direct head to head to competition on merchandise goods with most of the Chinese products. The greater concern is how much I can export to China and Am I able to keep that trade robust and growing and as their
economy contracts, this is the issue of concern for us," she said.
She also said merchandise exports have been affected due to dip in the global commodity prices and the slowdown.
"The slowdown is across the world. The US, Europe and China are also feeling it," she said, adding that exports in these countries too have recorded decline.
When asked whether there are any reports of job losses due to dip in exports, she said even though shipments are down, domestic consumption is good.
"...so loss of job is not a corollary of any reduction in exports figure," she said, adding that exports of Basmati rice were up in volumes terms by about 23 percent but because the prices have contracted sharply, exports in value terms have dipped.
Speaking at the media briefing, Additional Secretary in the Department of Commerce Arvind Mehta said that in the current year, crude oil imports in volumes terms have gone up but exports of petroleum products in volumes terms have dipped.
"This means that there is a higher domestic consumption going on and the weightage of petroleum products in the overall exports that used to be as high as about 28 percent, is now coming down to 11-12 percent because of the both value and volume factors," he said.
However, the Commerce Secretary said that even though merchandise exports are declining, services exports are balancing the trade deficit.
"We have done unusually well on the services side," she said. During April-November 2015-16, services exports stood at USD 179 billion.
By adding the exports of goods and services, the total shipments recorded a growth of 5.61 percent over the previous fiscal, she added.