Exports contracted by 2.6 per cent to USD 34.47 billion in September even as the country's merchandise trade deficit narrowed to USD 19.37 billion during the month under review, according to the government data released on Friday.
Easing commodity prices helped in cutting down the country's import bill by 15 per cent to USD 53.84 billion in September, the 10th consecutive month of decline.
During April-September this fiscal, exports contracted by 8.77 per cent to USD 211.4 billion. Imports during the six-month period fell by 12.23 per cent to USD 326.98 billion, leaving a trade deficit of USD 115.58 billion.
Briefing media on the trade data, Commerce Secretary Sunil Barthwal said that the September figures are reflecting that "green shoots" are visible on the exports front despite global challenges.
He expressed hope that in the remaining six months, the country's outbound shipments would register positive growth.
The contraction which was there in double digits during April, May, June and July, is now in single digits, he said, adding, "There is an optimism which we will see in the coming months" also.
The weekly exports trend during the current month is showing a positive movement, he added.
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has forecasted that global trade will grow only by 0.8 per cent in 2023.
Despite this, Barthwal said that India's exports are doing "well" and in fact entering new markets like Turkey for office equipment; and Finland, Malta and the Philippines for drug formulations.
When asked about the reasons for the dip in imports, he said the country's import substitution policy is working well and global commodity prices including crude oil have also come down.
The government has revised its August export figure to USD 38.45 billion from USD 34.48 billion, while import numbers were updated to USD 60.1 billion from USD 58.64 billion.
Due to this revision, the exports in August recorded a growth of 3.88 per cent. According to the data released by the government on September 15, it showed a decline of 6.86 per cent.
When asked about this high upward revision of about USD 4 billion in August, the secretary said sometimes the shipments go out but those numbers do not get recorded for some reason, and; sometimes customs withhold some consignments for scrutiny, so that data also does not get released.
Further in September, exports of 12 out of the 30 key sectors exhibited positive growth and that included iron ore; cotton yarn/fabrics; meat, dairy and poultry products; pharma; engineering; and marine products.
Sectors which recorded negative growth included petroleum products, textiles, electronic goods, chemicals, gems and jewellery, leather, tea and coffee.
At the imports front, 20 out of 30 key sectors exhibited negative growth in September and that included silver; fertilisers; transport equipment; coal, coke; vegetable oil; pearls, precious and semi-precious stones; crude oil; chemicals; and machine tools.
Oil imports in September dropped by 20.32 per cent to USD 14 billion. During the first half of this fiscal, the imports declined by 22.81 per cent to USD 82.3 billion.
On the other hand, gold imports in September rose by 7 per cent to USD 4.11 billion. During the first half of this fiscal, the imports grew by 9.8 per cent to USD 22.2 billion.
Further as per the data, services exports in September are estimated at USD 29.37 billion compared to USD 29.2 billion a year ago. Imports stood at USD 14.91 billion against USD 16.27 billion.
The estimated value of services exported in April-September 2023 was USD 164.89 billion compared to USD 156 billion in April-September 2022.
The commerce ministry has also revised the figures for June and July. As per the revised data, exports dipped 18.76 per cent to USD 34.35 billion in June against a 22 per cent contraction earlier at USD 32.97 billion.
Similarly, exports declined by 9.97 per cent to USD 34.51 billion in July compared 15.88 per cent contraction at USD 32.25 billion.