India posts trade surplus first time in 18 years as coronavirus hits imports

Reuters New Delhi Jul 15, 2020, 07.22 PM(IST)

Trade in India Photograph:( AFP )

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India last posted a trade surplus - a slim $10 million - in January 2002,

India posted a trade surplus of $790 million in June, its first in over 18 years, with imports plunging as the coronavirus pandemic depressed domestic demand for crude oil, gold and other industrial products, reflecting a slowing economy.

Indian exports and imports have been falling since March and worsening India-China relations, shrinking global demand and disruptions in supply chains are likely to pressure the trade outlook over the next few quarters, analysts said.

Asia's third largest economy is projected to contract by up to 5% this financial year, beginning April, from an earlier government estimate of nearly 6% growth as an over two-month-long COVID-19 lockdown has hit economic activities and consumer demand.

Merchandise imports contracted 47.59% in June to $21.11 billion from a year ago, while exports fell 12.41% to $21.91 billion, leading to a marginal trade surplus, data released by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry on Wednesday showed.

India last posted a trade surplus - a slim $10 million - in January 2002, according to Refinitiv data.

Ajay Sahai, director general of the Federation of Indian Export Organisations, said a marginal trade surplus was "good news."

"However, we will have to analyse to what extent lockdown, import restrictions and slowdown in the domestic economy have contributed to the fall in imports," he said, referring to a fall in raw material imports by exporters.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been pushing for import substitutions and has so far resisted industry pressure to sign a free trade agreement with the European Union.

Imports of crude oil, electronic items, gold jewellery and other products fell sharply during the three months to end June.