NEW DELHI: India’s merchandise and service exports witnessed a year-on-year growth to reach $35 billion and $29.57 billion respectively, commerce secretary Sunil Barthwal said on Wednesday, adding that the country’s total exports in goods and services in the current fiscal were expected to surpass the record $778.2 billion achieved in 2023-24.

Commerce secretary Sunil Barthwal said the final export figure for 2023-24 turned out to be higher than the $776.68 billion estimated on April 15. (REUTERS FILE)

The country’s merchandise exports rose by 1% to $34.99 billion in April 2024 as compared to $34.62 billion in April 2023, according to provisional data released by the commerce ministry that estimated services export in April this year at $29.57 billion, 14.7% higher than $25.78 billion achieved in the same period of FY24. However, the services trade data for April 2024 is an estimation as a final figure released by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) with a lag. Overall exports (merchandise and services) in April 2024 saw a 6.88% year-on-year growth at $64.56 billion.

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Citing revised numbers for overall exports in 2023-24 ($778.2 billion) after factoring in updated services trade data released by RBI for March, Barthwal said the final figure turned out to be higher than the $776.68 billion estimated on April 15. Overall exports in FY24 increased marginally compared to provisional numbers released a month ago because of conservative estimation of the services export figures for March 2024, he said.

“So now, this is the new highest, so to say, the new benchmark, which we have established,” he said.

Experts said the positive beginning in 2024-25, particularly in merchandise export, is likely to be sustained as global demand is expected to improve in line with the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) outlook.

“World merchandise trade volume is expected to grow 2.6% in 2024 and 3.3% in 2025 as demand for traded goods rebounds following a contraction in 2023,” according to WTO’s April 10 forecast. However, regional conflicts, geopolitical tensions and economic policy uncertainty pose substantial downside risks to the forecast, it added.

Pointing at headwinds such as high logistics costs due to the Red Sea crisis and prolonged wars in Europe and the Gulf region, Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) president Ashwani Kumar said, “Starting the new financial year 2024-25 on a positive note… is good sign even during such challenging times.” Compared to April 2024, merchandise exports in March 2024 saw a 0.67% year-on-year decline to 41.68 billion.

Barthwal said that India’s merchandise exports have entered a “positive cycle” and faster growth is expected with low inventories. “We further hope that exports will start showing better growth numbers with improved demand in the European Union, UK, West Asia and the US, which has given boost to the order bookings by over 10% and has come as sign of recovery for labour-intensive sectors of exports,” Kumar said.

According to the latest official data, while India’s merchandise exports saw a 1% annualised growth in April, the trade deficit widened to a four-month high of $19.1 billion. Sectors that boosted merchandise exports included electronics, chemicals, petroleum products and pharmaceuticals. Merchandise imports in April 2024 jumped by 10.25% to $54.09 billion, as compared to $49.06 billion in April 2023, on account of a significant jump in gold imports ($3.11 billion in April 2024), imports of precious metals ($3.11 billion) and crude oil imports ($16.5 billion). The trade deficit in April 2023 was $14.44 billion, mainly due to the higher price of commodities in the international market.

PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Sanjeev Agrawal said, “We look forward to a great export growth trajectory in the current financial year.”

This week, India signed a long-term contract for the development of Shahid Beheshti Port Terminal, Chabahar, which is expected to boost regional connectivity between India, Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia, and reduce the cost of trade and enhance exports to Central Asian countries, he said. “This port is also anticipated to act as a gateway to boost trade with European countries,” he added.

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