Exports cross $200 bn mark in Feb, to touch $235 bn in 2010-11

New Delhi: India`s exports crossed the USD 200 billion mark in the first eleven months of the 2010-11 fiscal, driven by a 50 per cent jump in outward shipments in February on the back of rising demand from the US and other markets.

Exports jumped by 49.8 per cent year-on-year during February to USD 23.6 billion, taking the April-January, 2010-11, figure to USD 208.2 billion, an increase of 31.4 per cent over the year-ago period and past the yearly target of USD 200 billion.

"We have crossed the USD 200 billion mark. The current forecast for the (fiscal) year is USD 230-235 billion," Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar told reporters here today.

Imports also went up by 21.2 per cent in February to USD 31.7 billion, leaving a trade deficit to USD 8.1 billion.

During the first 11 months of the financial year, imports grew by 18 per cent to USD 305.3 billion vis-a-vis the same period last year. The trade gap for the period stood at USD 97.1 billion.

"In imports, we will end up (the fiscal) closer to USD 350 billion… On the whole, we are looking at balance of trade at USD 105-115 billion," he said, adding, "(It depends) on how well or bad we do on the export and import fronts."

However, the Secretary said that the import figures will change as they will be revised once definitive figures are formulated.

He also said that export numbers for January and February from special economic zones are also coming in, so "by the end of March when I will give you the full year numbers, you should not be surprised if there is a bump up in the exports numbers."

Khullar further said that the sectors which performed well during the 11 months of fiscal include engineering (81 per cent), petroleum and oil lubricants (34 per cent), cotton yarn and made-ups (43 per cent), plastics (41 per cent), chemicals (22 per cent), electronics (40 per cent), carpets (37 per cent) and marine (20 per cent).

"The growth which we are seeing is basically from the markets of Asia, Latin America and Africa. In these new markets demand for our products are increasing," Ramu Deora, the President of India`s apex exporters body FIEO, said.

However, Deora said that demand is still weak in several European markets.

The US and Europe were the traditional markets for Indian exporters, but after the global economic crisis, exporters increased their engagement in new markets of Asia, Latin America and Africa.

The government is providing duty incentives to exporters for these new markets.

Khullar said that engineering exports are doing "remarkably" well and are expected to touch USD 55-56 billion by the end of this year. Engineering goods constitute about 25 per cent of India`s total exports.

The government has floated a strategy paper aimed at doubling India`s exports to USD 450 billion in the next three years.

"In the next 3-5 years, essentially India has to look to capitalise on its engineering and chemical industry," he said.

However, a few sectors where exports are still in the red include iron ore, fruits and vegetables and cotton yarn, on account of restrictions imposed on overseas shipments. In addition, tea exports exhibited a decline during the year.

The official figures for February will be released on April 1.

On imports, he said during April-February 2010-11, imports of pearls and precious stones went up by 55 per cent, vegetable oil by 18 per cent, machinery by 19 per cent, chemicals (25 per cent), coal (12 per cent), ores and scraps (31 per cent), petroleum and oil lubricants (12.5 per cent) and fertilisers (6 per cent).

Talking about increasing imports, he said, "The reason is that I expect import next month (in March) at about USD 30 billion and I expect a correction of about USD 10 billion because of oil prices and the fact that import data was not captured for couple of months correctly."

He said that due to increasing imports, India`s Current Account Deficit (CAD) would be around 2.5 to 2.8 per cent of the GDP by 2010-11 end.

India`s CAD, representing the net flow of income out of the country barring capital movements, surged by 72 per cent to USD 15.8 billion in the July-September quarter vis-a-vis the same period last year.

The CAD, which includes deficit in external trade of goods, services, besides net investment income, stood at 2.9 per cent of the GDP last fiscal.