India’s goods exports declined 2.6 per cent (year-on-year) to $34.47 billion in September 2023, the fifth month of fall this fiscal, weighed down by the petroleum, gems & jewellery, chemicals and garments sectors. But the government is optimistic that the “green-shoots” of growth are getting confirmed and shipments may rise in the remaining six months .

Imports declined by 15 per cent to $53.84 billion in September 2023, as petroleum imports dipped 20.3 per cent to $14 billion, which shrunk the trade deficit to a five-month low of $19.37 billion, per quick estimates released by the Commerce Department on Friday.

“Last month we saw some green shoots in terms of improvement in exports, although the global scenario is quite bleak. This has been confirmed by September data... Weekly trends for exports in October 2023 are also positive,” said Commerce Secretary Sunil Barthwal. Excluding exports of petroleum (which were negative because of a fall in global oil prices) and gems & jewellery, goods exports in September 2023 at $ 24.78 billion were higher than $24.33 billion in September 2022, although the increase was marginal, he added.

In a revision of data after some “reconciliation” with Customs, exports for August 2023 are now estimated at a higher $38.4 billion, which leads to a 3.88 per cent growth (year-on-year) instead of a 6.8 per cent fall announced last month when exports for the month were pegged at $34.48 billion. “In the current financial year, this (August 2023) is the first month where we have achieved positive growth,” Director General of Foreign Trade Santosh Sarangi said.  

The Commerce Secretary pointed out that services exports were doing well, and the fall in merchandise exports had lessened ringing in optimism. “I think for the remaining six months, there should be definitely positive growth in our exports. In fact, these green shoots are getting confirmed,” he added.

Exports in the April-September 2023 declined 8.77 per cent to $ 211.4 billion. Imports during the six months fell by 12.23 per cent to $ 326.98 billion.

Sluggish global demand, especially in major economies like the EU, UK and China, coupled with the subdued growth in economies like the US and Australia, had led to declining export trends though the downward movement is largely arrested, pointed out exporters’ body FIEO. “The need of the hour is to provide easy and low cost of credit to the MSMEs, marketing support for promoting overall exports and GST exemption on freight on exports,” said FIEO President A Sakthivel.

The fall in exports this fiscal could partly be attributed to the decline in global commodity prices. “There has been a large surge in volume of exports in certain commodities (in April-August 2023). But the fall in commodity prices have resulted in a decline in or reduced export realisation. Petroleum leads the show. In marine products, too, there has been a big jump in volume…but there has been a decline in realisation. But in September marine exports have gone up,” Sarangi said.