May 1, 2009
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Indian exports dive 33 pct in March

May 1, 2009

NEW DELHI, May 1, 2009 (AFP) - India's exports slid by a third in March, their sixth straight monthly fall, figures showed Friday, as the global financial slump gouged demand in the country's main US and European markets.

Exports fell 33.3 percent to 11.5 billion dollars in March from 17.25 billion dollars in the same month a year earlier, according to government data.

Imports slid by 34 percent to 15.56 billion dollars, reflecting a tumble in world oil prices and falling demand in a faltering domestic economy.

FIEO President Mr. A Sakthivel (R) meets the Honourable President of Chile Dr (Ms)Michelle Bachelet (centre) on 17th March at a State Banquet hosted by the Honourable President of India, Mrs. Pratibha Devisingh Patil (L)

For the fiscal year to March 31, 2009, exports grew by just 3.4 percent to 168.70 billion dollars, just short of a reduced government target of 170 billion dollars, while imports climbed 14.3 percent to 287.8 billion dollars.

The government has forecast more bad news in the months ahead for export demand for made-in-India goods -- like textiles, jewellery and handicrafts.

Commerce Secretary G.K. Pillai said exports would keep falling until at least September and that recovery would be only gradual.

Exports account for around 15 percent of India's gross domestic product.

"Europe, the US and Japan are all entering into recession in a synchronised way, causing this collapse in (Indian) exports," said economist Claire Innes of London-based IHS Global Insight.

"But where India has got a bit more advantage is that trade still represents quite a small proportion of overall growth so it has a little bit more insulation from the global downturn" than export-reliant nations, she said.

"If the government can keep domestic demand up, it (the economy) will have some protection," Innes told AFP.

The economy is seen slowing to around six percent this year -- the weakest in seven years -- from an estimated 6.5 to 6.7 percent last year, according to the central bank.

Before the global financial crisis, the economy was growing by around nine percent.

Export-dependent industries are reeling in the country of more than 1.1 billion people.

A. Sakthivel, president of the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO), has said there would be "approximately 10 million job losses" due to the export slump.

India logged a robust 30 percent year-on-year export growth between April and September last year. But foreign shipments started shrinking in October as the impact of the worldwide financial crisis set in.

The ministry cut its export goal for this year to 170 billion dollars from an initial target of 200 billion dollars set when the global economy was booming.

Ratings agency Crisil principal economist D.K. Joshi forecast exports could grow by about five percent in the current fiscal year.

The March slide in imports narrowed India's trade gap to four billion dollars for the month from 6.32 billion dollars in the same period a year earlier.

The full-year trade deficit rose to 119 billion dollars from 88.5 billion the previous year.

Innes said she expected a "bottoming out" of the decline in global export demand later this year but added, "We don't see a full recovery in world trade until calendar 2011."by Penny MacRae

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