Corona Impact: Electronics exports dip, fall may deepen in FY21

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April 30, 2020 3:00 AM

Industry executives say the slump in electronics could only deepen in the first quarter of this fiscal, mainly due to the lockdown, and further accelerate a slide in the overall merchandise exports.

In contrast, total goods exports contracted by 4.8% in FY20, partly because of a massive 35% slide in March. (Representative image)In contrast, total goods exports contracted by 4.8% in FY20, partly because of a massive 35% slide in March. (Representative image)

Electronics, which had emerged as the fastest-growing export segment in recent years, witnessed a sharp 22% contraction, year on year, in March, as the impact of the pandemic started to bite hard.

Industry executives say the slump in electronics could only deepen in the first quarter of this fiscal, mainly due to the lockdown, and further accelerate a slide in the overall merchandise exports.

Up to February last fiscal, electronics exports had defied the general trend of contraction in overall merchandise shipments and had grown by a robust 40%. So despite the sharp fall in March, electronics exports ended the last fiscal with a 33% surge from a year before to a record $11.8 billion, according to the “quick estimates” of the commerce ministry. Of course, as industry executives have pointed out, the outbound shipments of such items are still well below potential and make up for roughly 1% of the global exports and the growth.

Nevertheless, given that massive electronics imports and their debilitating impact on trade balance had long pressured the country’s current account, a spurt in such exports had come as a relief to policy-makers in recent years.

Having jumped 39% year-on-year to a record $8.8 billion in FY19, electronics exports surged 33% in the last fiscal, according to the “quick estimates”. In contrast, total goods exports contracted by 4.8% in FY20, partly because of a massive 35% slide in March.

Importantly, electronics imports – the largest contributor to the country’s trade deficit after petroleum – lost some pace in the last fiscal, albeit on a high base, and dropped 5% to almost $55 billion.

Exports of telecom instruments, including mobile phones, jumped almost 125% to $2.7 billion until January (up to which latest “provisional” segregated data are available), while electronics instruments saw a 23% rise to $2.5 billion – albeit on low bases. A senior government official had earlier described as a success story of Make in India, as local assembly/production had gone up, leading to higher exports. However, this success story has now been threatened by the pandemic.

Analysts have pointed out that the nature of electronics imports, especially in the mobile phone segment, is changing. Purchases of components from overseas for local assembly/manufacturing are rising at a faster pace than those of completely-built units (CBUs).

Telecom instruments made up for close to a third of overall electronics imports up to January in FY20, followed by electronic instruments (30%) and electronics components (29%).

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