Exports cross USD 300 bn target

New Delhi: India`s exports surpassed the target of USD 300 billion for 2011-12 despite problems in Europe and the US that led to decline in shipments by 5.71 per cent in March and spurt in trade deficit to all time high of USD 185 billion in the last fiscal.

Exports touched USD 303.7 billion for the previous fiscal, registering 21 per cent expansion. Exports in March declined to USD 28.68 billion from USD 30.41 in March 2011.

Imports for the month aggregated USD 42.6 billion leaving a trade gap of USD 13.9 billion, according to the data released by the Commerce Ministry on Tuesday. Import bill in 2011-12 touched USD 488.6 billion on account of rise in imports of crude oil and gold. Both items alone accounted for over 44 per cent of total import bill.

Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar had said the trade deficit situation can worsen in the current fiscal. "If balance of trade (BoT) is to stay exactly where it was, my exports need to grow by 28 per cent and that is impossible,we cannot do that…where are we going to drum up 25-30 per cent growth," he had asked.

The highest ever BoT remains an area of concern for the Reserve Bank and the exporters community – FIEO. "The financing of the current account deficit will continue to pose a major challenge," RBI has said in its credit policy.

While gold and silver imports grew by 44.4 per cent year – on-year to USD 61.5 billion, crude oil imports went up by 46.9 per cent to USD 155.6 billion in 2011-12.

Oil and non-oil imports during the month increased by 32.45 per cent and 19.91 per cent to USD 15.83 billion and USD 26.75 billion respectively.

FIEO said the deficit could be bridged with increasing exports as market and product diversification strategy has started yielding results.

Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) President M Rafeeque Ahmed said the growing trade deficit, which is highest in the history of India`s trade, is a cause for concern. "…but looking at the profile of imports, very little manoeuvring is possible since increasing trade deficit is on account of large imports of petroleum, gold, silver, and coal," he said.

During the entire 2011-12, Oil and non-oil imports grew by 46.88 per cent and 26.23 per cent to USD 155.63 billion and USD 263.80 billion respectively. Khullar has cautioned that 2012-13 would again be a difficult year and early policy decisions on coal, fertiliser and edible oil are needed in the wake of rising import bill on these heads.

During 2011-12, coal, fertiliser and edible oil imports grew by 80.3 per cent, 59 per cent and 47.5 per cent to USD 17.6 billion, USD 11 billion and USD 9.7 billion respectively. "Coal imports expanded significantly. Now it requires decision on the domestic policy front in terms of coal production. Similarly edible oil and fertiliser imports have expanded significantly and these require domestic policy decisions," Khullar said.

From a peak of 82 per cent in July, export growth slipped to 44.25 per cent in August, 36.36 per cent in September, 10.8 per cent in October and 3.8 per cent in November 2011. However, exports grew 6.7 per cent in December, over 10 per cent in January and 4.3 per cent in February.

Exporting sectors which registered healthy growth in 2011-12 include engineering, petroleum and its products besides gems and jewellery. Importing sectors which registered growth in 2011-12 include electronics, chemicals and iron and steel.