India's exports jumped 45.76 per cent to $33.28 billion in August on account of healthy growth in segments like engineering, petroleum products, gems and jewellery and chemicals, even as the trade deficit widened to a four-month high of $13.81 billion.
Imports in August rose 51.72 per cent to $47.09 billion, as against $31.03 billion in the corresponding month of 2020, according to the commerce ministry's data released on Tuesday.
The trade deficit swelled to $13.81 billion, compared to $8.2 billion in August 2020. The previous high was $15.1 billion in April 2021.
The deficit was $55.54 billion during April-August this fiscal as against $23.35 billion during the same period of the previous year.
Exports during April-August 2021 grew by 67.33 per cent to $164.1 billion, the data showed.
Imports during April-August rose by 80.89 per cent to $219.63 billion.
Oil imports in August surged 80.64 per cent to $11.65 billion, while gold imports climbed 82.48 per cent to $6.75 billion.
Exports of engineering, petroleum products, gems and jewellery and chemicals rose by about 59 per cent to $9.64 billion, 144.6 per cent to $4.65 billion, 88.3 per cent to $3.43 billion, and 36 per cent to $2.23 billion, respectively.
Commenting on the figures, former president of the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) S K Saraf said export growth remains healthy and India is on course to achieving the $400 billion exports target by end of this fiscal.
FIEO president A Sakthivel said augmenting the flow of empty containers and establishing a regulatory authority to seek justification of freight hike and imposition of various charges by shipping lines need urgent intervention of the government.
He requested the government to provide freight support to all exports till March 31 as freight rates have skyrocketed and are likely to cool by then.
ICRA's chief economist Aditi Nayar said the predominant drivers behind the widening of the trade deficit have been gold and oil imports.
With gold imports likely to ease in the ongoing month on account of the inauspicious period, the merchandise trade deficit may moderate under $10 billion in September, she said.
"We expect a small current account surplus in Q1 FY2022 to offset a mild deficit in the ongoing quarter, resulting in a largely balanced current account in H1 FY2022," she added.
Prahalathan Iyer, Chief General Manager, Research and Analysis, India EXIM Bank, said exports from India in the quarter ending September 2021 are estimated to be $98 billion.
This would take India's first half (April-September) exports to a level of $193 billion to $195 billion, Iyer said.
Photograph: PTI Photo