Exports flat in December 2018; trade deficit narrows to 10-month low 

New Delhi, Delhi, IndiaUpdated: Jan 15, 2019, 10:27 PM IST

File photo. Photograph:(Reuters)

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Last time, imports had plunged into negative territory in September 2016. It was dipped by 2.54 per cent then.

The country's exports growth remained almost flat at $27.93 billion in December 2018, mainly on account of global trade tensions.

According to trade data released by the commerce ministry, exports grew at the slowest pace in three months at 0.34 per cent in December, while imports entered a negative zone, registering a decline of 2.44 per cent to $41 billion.

Declining imports have narrowed the trade deficit to a ten-month low of $13.08 billion in December 2018 as against $14.2 billion in the same month the previous year.

Last time, imports had plunged into negative territory in September 2016. It was dipped by 2.54 per cent then.

The import of gold too contracted by 24.33 per cent to $2.56 billion in December 2018.

During the month under review, several key export sectors recorded negative growth. It includes engineering goods, gems and jewellery, leather, pharmaceuticals, marine products, iron ore, tea and coffee.

Commenting on the figures, exporters body FIEO said that the marginal growth in exports was due to uncertain global cues and challenges on the domestic front.

"China's exports contracted in December 2018, highlighting fragile global conditions. The weak global economic outlook is showing no signs of respite," Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) President Ganesh Kumar Gupta said.

Engineering Export Promotion Council (EEPC) Chairman Ravi Sehgal too said the unfolding global situation comprises not only problems on account of trade tensions between China and the US, but also other issues like uncertainty over Brexit fall-out in the European markets.

"The situation certainly calls for a major rethink and redrawing of our export strategy," he said.

However, cumulatively during April-December, this fiscal, exports grew by 10.18 per cent to $245.44 billion. Imports rose by 12.61 per cent to USD 386.65 billion.

The trade deficit widened to $141.2 billion during the nine months of the current fiscal from $120.57 billion in April-December 2017-18.

Oil imports in December 2018 rose by 3.16 per cent to $10.67 billion. During April-December this fiscal, imports grew by 42.85 per cent to $108.10 billion.

Non-oil imports during the nine-month period of the fiscal increased by 4.06 per cent to $278.54 billion.