A marginal 2.44 per cent increase in exports, as well as lower imports of gold and petroleum products in February, significantly narrowed the country's trade deficit to $9.6 billion, according to data released by the commerce ministry Friday.
India's merchandise exports rose to $26.67 billion in February from $26.03 per cent in the year-ago month mainly on account of higher shipments in sectors such as pharmaceutical, engineering and electronics.
Imports declined by 5.4 per cent to $36.26 billion in the last month, narrowing the trade deficit to $9.6 billion. The gap between imports and exports was $12.3 billion in February 2018 and $14.73 billion in January 2019.
As per the data, the decline in imports was mainly on account of sharp decline in inward shipments of gold and petroleum products.
While the import of gold fell by about 11 per cent to $2.58 billion in February as against $2.89 billion in the corresponding month last fiscal, inward shipments of petroleum products were down by nearly 8 per cent to $9.37 billion.
During the April-February period of the current fiscal year, exports grew 8.85 per cent to $298.47 billion, while imports rose by 9.75 per cent to $464 billion.
The trade deficit has widened to $165.52 billion during the 11 months of the current fiscal from $148.55 billion compared to the year-ago period, the data said.
Non-petroleum and non-gems and jewellery exports in February 2019 stood at $19.87 billion, as compared to $18.90 billion in the year-ago month. Non-petroleum and non-gems and jewellery exports in April-February 2018-19 were $217.43 billion, as against $201.95 billion in the comparative period last fiscal.
Oil imports in April-February 2018-19 were $128.72 billion, which was 31.98 per cent higher over the same period last fiscal.
The global Brent price (USD/bbl) decreased by 1.97 per cent in February 2019 compared to the same month the previous year.
Commenting on the trade data, President of exporters' body FIEO Ganesh Kumar Gupta said that exporters have managed to do well despite increasing protectionism, tough global conditions and constraints on the domestic front.
He said economies across Asia especially China and South East Asian nations have been showing signs of sluggishness with contraction in manufacturing due to a slowdown in the global trade and fragile world economy.
Gupta said 18 out of 30 major product groups were in positive territory, with most of them with marginal growth during the month.
"However, with this trend, we will be able to achieve merchandise exports of about USD 330 billion, the highest ever exports for a fiscal," he added.
Meanwhile, the RBI said services exports in January 2019 were $17.75 billion, registering a negative growth of 1.02 per cent over December 2018. The imports stood at $11.03 billion, down 3.07 per cent over December 2018.
Taking merchandise and services together, overall trade deficit for April-February 2018-19 is estimated at $93.32 billion as compared to $82.46 billion in year-ago period.