As widely anticipated, the rapid spread of coronavirus pandemic across the globe has started showing its symptoms in country's merchandise trade. The month of March recorded the steepest year-on-year fall of 34.6 per cent since 2015 in merchandise exports to $21.4 billion, as per the data released by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
Among the major export commodities, oil meals recorded a fall of 69.9 per cent, meat, dairy and poultry products of 45.5 per cent, engineering goods of 42.3 per cent, gems and jewellery of 41.1 per cent, leather and leather products of 36.8 per cent, and petroleum products of 31.1 per cent.
India's import bill on the other hand, witnessed its second biggest fall of 28.7 per cent to $31.2 billion, during the period. Crude oil imports fell by 15 per cent while non-oil imports declined by 33.8 per cent. The non-oil commodities that recorded a fall in imports include pearls, precious and semi-precious stones (-53.5 per cent), machinery, electrical and non-electrical (-31.7 per cent), electronic goods (-29.1 per cent) and coal, coke and briquettes (-23.5 per cent).
With this, the merchandise exports during April-March 2020 declined by nearly 5 per cent to $314.3 billion from $330.1 billion in 2018/19 - registering its first contraction in four years. Imports too fell by 9.1 per cent in FY20 after a growth of 10.5 per cent in the previous fiscal. With this, the trade deficit narrowed to $152.9 billion during the period from $184 billion in 2018/19.
Based on the second advance estimates of GDP for the year 2019/20 released by Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation in February, merchandise exports share in GDP has now fallen to a low since year 2004/05 of 10.9 per cent and imports contribution to GDP touched its lowest since 2015/16 at 16.2 per cent.