Declining for 16th straight month in March, exports contracted 5.47% to $22.71 billion in the month, as shipments of petroleum and engineering products shrunk sharply due to tepid global demand.
For 2015-16, exports fell 15.8% to a five-year low of $261.13 billion due to fragile global demand and low commodity prices.
Imports dipped 15.28% to $379.6 billion in 2015-16, leaving a trade deficit of $118.45 billion. The trade gap was $137.69 billion in 2014-15.
Oil imports in the last month were valued at $4.79 billion, 35.3% lower than the year-ago period. Non-oil imports, too, dipped 17.92% to $22.98 billion. Gold imports also dipped in March, falling 80.48% to $972.96 million. Declining gold and oil imports are likely to keep a lid on the current account deficit.
The commerce ministry said the trend of falling exports is in line with major world economies.
Analysts, however, said prospects for export growth remain bleak, with global trade forecast to expand by just 2.8% in 2016 by the World Trade Organisation.
“The figures are alarming. Immediate steps like creating of a fund to enhance marketing activities need to be announced,” said Rafeeq Ahmed, former FIEO president and chairman of Council for Leather Exports.
“We expect Indian exports to continue performing poorly in 2016-17 due to subdued global economic growth and still-depressed commodity prices,” said Chua Han Teng of BMI Research, a unit of rating agency Fitch. “Additionally, strength of the Indian rupee in real effective exchange rate terms will also have a negative impact on the country’s exports.”
In Asia, China’s exports returned to growth in March for the first time in nine months, another sign of stabilisation in the world’s second-largest economy.
India’ economy is expected to grow 7.5% this year and next, according to the International Monetary Fund. Its current account deficit remained under control at 1.3% of GDP in the October-December quarter.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley had said earlier, “There are concerns about export growth, which is declining consecutively for more than a year due to slowdown in global demand.”