Export growth in India eased to a six-month low of 3.49 per cent in December mainly due to a fall in the shipment of petroleum goods. India's exports stood at USD 26.3 billion in December compared with USD 25.4 billion in the same month of 2012. Petroleum exports, which contribute significantly to the country's trade basket, declined 16 per cent last month.
"It is only one product group which has contributed to (slower growth in exports) and that is petroleum products. There has been an unplanned maintenance shutdown in one of our largest exporters of the country - Reliance Industries," Commerce Secretary S R Rao said today.
However, a 15.25 per cent decline in imports to USD 36.4 billion, particularly in gold and silver shipments, helped to narrow the trade deficit to USD 10.1 billion in December. In November, the trade gap was USD 9.21 billion.
Inward shipments of gold and silver dipped 68.8 per cent to USD 1.77 billion from USD 5.6 billion in December last year, although they were higher than USD 1.05 billion in November.
Oil imports grew 1.1 per cent to USD 13.89 billion during the month.
Rao said that barring petroleum products, all other sectors such as engineering, textiles and chemicals have shown reasonable healthy growth.
Commenting on the figures, Rafeeq Ahmed, President of the Federation of Indian Export Organisations, said efforts are required to keep export growth in double-digits.
During April-December, exports aggregated USD 230.3 billion and imports USD 340.3 billion, while the trade deficit was about USD 110 billion.
"We are not happy with a modest growth of 3.49 per cent in exports in December," Ahmed said.
Gold and silver imports in the April-December period declined 30.3 per cent to USD 27.3 billion from USD 39.2 billion a year earlier. The government and the Reserve Bank of India had taken steps last year to curb gold imports in a bid to contain the current account deficit.
Oil imports in the nine-month period grew 2.6 per cent to USD 124.95 billion, while non-oil imports dipped 11.1 per cent to USD 215.42 billion.
Export sectors that registered positive growth in December include engineering (15 per cent), readymade garments (17.39 per cent), chemicals (8.75 per cent), cotton yarn and fabrics (1.42 per cent), rice (9.72 per cent) and plastics (21 per cent).
Director General of Foreign Trade Anup Pujari said petroleum exports contracted 16 per cent year-on-year to USD 4.8 billion. Engineering shipments were USD