Pulled down by a steep drop in natural gas output, the production of eight core sector industries contracted by 2.5 per cent in February, the first time in 2012-13.

Sector-wise performance revealed that the biggest decline of over 20 per cent in the month was witnessed in the case of natural gas, followed by coal (— 8 per cent), electricity generation (— 4.1 per cent) and crude oil (— 4 per cent).

The output growth of the core sector industries was 7.7 per cent in February, 2012.

The negative performance in reporting month pulled down the cumulative growth in 11 months of 2012-13 ended February to 2.6 per cent against 5.2 per cent during the corresponding period in 2011-12.

The eight industries include crude oil, petroleum refinery products, coal, electricity, cement and finished steel and have a weightage of 37.9 per cent in the overall Index of Industrial Production (IIP).

During the month, fertiliser output too shrunk by 4 per cent against 4.1 per cent growth in February 2012.

However, cement output rose by 3.9 per cent against 9.8 per cent growth in the same month last year. At the same time, petroleum refinery products index rose by 4.3 per cent as compared to 6 per cent in the same month a year ago.

Steel production grew merely by 0.5 per cent as against 8.7 in February, 2012.

The eight core sector industries had grown by 3.1 per cent in January and 2.5 per cent in the previous month.

According to experts, the decline in the core industries will reflect in the IIP numbers of February, which will be released in the second week of this month.

Industrial output grew by 2.4 per cent in January against 1 per cent in the same month a year ago.