(Eds: Adding ministers comments)
New Delhi, Jan 15 (PTI) Propelled by engineering goods and petroleum sectors, Indias exports rose 12.36 per cent to USD 27.03 billion in December even as the trade deficit touched a 3-year high.
Imports too surged significantly to USD 41.91 billion, up 21.12 per cent, on increased inbound shipments of crude oil and gold.
Exporters body FIEO said India is on course to reaching the USD 300 billion milestone for overseas shipments.
As per the data released by the commerce ministry, the trade deficit or difference between imports and exports was USD 14.88 billion, up about 41 per cent year-on-year.
"Exports have been on a positive trajectory since August 2016 to December 2017 with a dip of 1.1 per cent in the month of October 2017," the ministry said in a statement.
FIEO said that positive growth for the second month in a row, after a fall in October, shows resilience of the Indian exporters.
"Since we have already achieved exports worth USD 224 billion in first 9 months of the fiscal and global trade growth remains robust in 2018, we are on our course to achieve the milestone of USD 300 billion in 2017-18," said FIEO President Ganesh Kumar Gupta.
The exports had totalled USD 274.64 billion in 2016-17, up from USD 262.29 billion in the preceding industry.
As per the commerce ministry data, exports of engineering goods as well as petroleum products showed an increase of over 25 per cent in December.
However, shipments of ready-made garments declined by 8 per cent to USD 1.33 billion last month.
Gold imports surged by 71.5 per cent to USD 3.39 billion last month as against USD 1.97 billion in December 2016.
The imports of petroleum products and crude oil increased by a significant 35 per cent to USD 10.34 billion in December, from USD 7.66 billion a year ago.
The ministry said the global Brent prices increased by 18.75 per cent last month, compared to December 2016 as per World Bank commodity price data.
Cumulative value of exports for April-December, 2017-18, was USD 223.512 billion as against USD 199.467 billion in the year-ago period, a growth of 12.05 per cent.
Imports during the first nine months of the current fiscal amounted to USD 338.369 billion as against USD 277.89 billion, a growth of of 21.76 per cent.
The trade deficit during the period widened to USD 114.85 billion.
On the trade balance, FIEO said the rising deficit "is alarming" and the import profile needs to be analysed carefully to see whether imports would augment domestic production or pose a challenge.
The rising import of gold and precious and semi-precious stones can help exports from the gems and jewellery sector in next few months, Gupta added.
Exports of only 21 (as against 24 in November, 2017) out of 30 major product groups were in the positive territory in December, 2017 including engineering goods, petroleum, organic and inorganic chemicals, gems and jewellery, and drugs and pharmaceuticals.
Gupta further said exporters are having "huge problem" in getting refund of input tax credit (ITC) both due to "ignorance and recalcitrant approach" of the tax authorities.
He said exporters should be given reasons for the delay and there should be close monitoring of GST refund for exports on day to day basis.
Aditi Nayar, Principal Economist with ICRA said that a sharper than expected rise in imports of gold, and pearls, precious and semi-precious stones, amid a considerable decline in the pace of growth of non-oil merchandise exports, bloated the merchandise trade deficit to a three-year high of USD 14.9 billion in December 2017.
Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank data showed that the exports in services in November 2017 were valued at USD 15.392 billion.
The imports were valued at USD 9.64 billion.
It said in a press release that the trade balance in services (net export of services) for the month was estimated at USD 5.74 billion.
Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu said in a series of tweets that growth in exports across major commodity groups reflects the positive trend in the economy.
"Our continuous efforts are focussed towards facilitating exports and achieving our full potential," he added. PTI NKD CS RR SA