Helped by a demand pick-up in the western economies, India’s exports grew by 26.5 per cent year-on-year to $ 18.8 billion in November, raising expectations of exports going well beyond the target of $ 200 billion in the current fiscal.

In November 2009, exports stood at $ 14.9 billion.

During April-November 2010, the outbound shipments increased by 26.7 per cent to $ 140.2 billion compared to $ 110.6 billion in the year-ago period.

Imports too rose by 11.2 per cent in November to $ 27.7 billion, leaving a trade gap of $ 8.9 billion, according to the data released by the Commerce Ministry today.

Imports during the first eight months of this fiscal stood at $ 221.9 billion, an increase on 23.9 per cent, over $ 179 billion in the corresponding period last year. During the period, the trade deficit stood at $ 81.6 billion and is expected to be in the range of $ 120-125 billion.

The country’s apex exporters body FIEO said that the exports may touch $ 220 billion, sharing the optimism of the Commerce Ministry. A senior official has projected the country’s exports in the range of $ 210-215 billion.

“Exports may reach the new milestone of $ 220 billion this fiscal,” Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) President Ramu Deora said.

Ficci’s Director General Rajiv Kumar said, “I suppose touching $ 215 billion would be possible as there are four months to go and we can export goods worth $ 75 billion. I think it should be achievable.”

He said pick up in the U.S. market would boost demand which is already high in Asia.

The government had fixed an export target of $ 200 billion during 2010-11. In 2009-10, the exports had declined by 4.7 per cent to $ 176.5 billion under the impact of global slowdown.

However, widening of trade gap has raised concerns.

“The continuous increase in the trade deficit is a worrying issue. The government should devise a strategy to reduce the trade deficit,” Mr. Deora said.

According to Mr. Kumar, hardening of crude oil prices has led to the increase in trade deficit.

“I think the country’s trade deficit will be larger than before. Increasing trade deficit is a cause of concern...I think the hardening crude oil prices have increased the imports bill,” he said.

According to the Commerce Ministry data, oil imports during November 2010 increased by 2.31 per cent to $ 7.7 billion compared to $ 7.5 billion in the corresponding period last year.

During April-November 2010-11, oil imports rose by 21.4 per cent to $ 64.8 billion from USD 53.4 billion in the year ago period.

Non-oil imports during the month grew by 15 per cent to $ 20.07 billion from $ 17.44 billion in November 2009.

During the first eight months of this fiscal, non-oil imports too went up by 25 per cent to $ 157.11 billion from $ 125.64 billion in the same period last fiscal.

Exports sectors, which performed well during April - November period, include engineering goods, petroleum and refinery items and cotton yarn.

The government is preparing a strategy paper to double the country’s exports by 2014 with the help of leading industrialists and bankers.

More In: Economy | Business