After an almost 18% slump last fiscal, exports of gold products regained some of the lost glitter to record a 24% jump in the first five months of 2018-19 from a year before, while the import of the precious metal dropped 1.5% during the period, albeit on a much larger base.
Consequently, the share of exports of gold products in imports of the bullion rose to 35.4% in the April-August period, from 34.6% in the last fiscal, showed the latest data. Of course, the share of exports in total domestic production would be much lower, as a lot of jewellery is made of recycled gold.
Higher gold exports come as a welcome relief at a time when policymakers are mulling steps to curb imports of the precious metal to trim current account deficit and ease pressure on the rupee that has flirted with new lows against the greenback almost each day of this week.
Analysts say higher exports in 2018-19 suggests a slowdown in domestic demand, caused mainly by an 8% rise in local prices in the June quarter from a year earlier due to a weak rupee. India usually imports bullion and exports products after value addition, apart from using recycled gold.
Last fiscal, while gold imports had gone up 22%, exports of products made of the precious metal such as jewellery, coins and medallions had dropped close to 18%, as per data sourced from the Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council and the commerce ministry.
The gross outbound shipment of gold jewellery, coins and medallions touched $5.32 billion between April and August, compared with $4.28 billion a year before.
Some jewellers, however, expect the situation to change with a spurt in demand in the upcoming festival and marriage season. As such, gold imports jumped over 90% in August, almost erasing a contraction until July, as jewellers sought to replenish inventory ahead of the festival season.
Gold demand volume in India, the world’s second-largest consumer, dropped almost 7.6% in the April-June period to 187.2 tonne, according to the World Gold Council. But it expects local demand to rise in the second half of this calendar year.
So, if gold exports start to fall again, it may spell trouble for the CAD. The country’s CAD is expected to worsen to 2.8% of GDP this fiscal, against 1.9% a year before. This has prompted the government to weigh measures to curb imports “non-essential” items. Last month, it raised the import duty on gold jewellery to 20% from 15%.