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Rupee at life-time low to hit imports, make overseas education, travel costlier

Rupee depreciation wiped away some of the gains that would have accrued to India from international oil prices dropping to pre-Ukraine war levels

July 15, 2022 07:08 pm | Updated 09:38 pm IST - New Delhi

The Indian rupee nearing 80 to a U.S. dollar will make imports of items -- from crude oil to electronic goods -- as well as overseas education and foreign travel costlier while raising fears that the inflation situation could worsen.

The primary and immediate impact of a depreciating rupee is on importers who will have to shell out more for the same quantity and price. However, it is a boon for the exporters as they receive more rupees in exchange for dollars.

The rupee depreciation has wiped away some of the gains that would have accrued to India from international oil and fuel prices dropping to pre-Ukraine war levels.

India is 85% dependent on foreign oil to meet its needs for fuels, such as petrol, diesel and jet fuel.

The rupee, which on Thursday closed at an all-time low of 79.99 to a US dollar, appreciated 7 paise to 79.92 in early trade on Friday.

The basket of Indian imports includes crude oil, coal, plastic material, chemicals, electronic goods, vegetable oil, fertiliser, machinery, gold, pearls, precious and semi-precious stones, and iron and steel.

Imports

Importers need to buy U.S. dollars to pay for imported items. With the dip in the rupee, importing items will get more expensive; not just oil but mobile phones, some cars and appliances, are also likely to get more expensive.

The rupee losing value against the U.S. dollar would mean foreign education just became more expensive. Not just having to shell out more rupees for every dollar that the foreign institutions charge as fees, education loans too have become costlier following the interest rate increases by the RBI.

Foreign travel

With the COVID-19 cases declining, there has been revenge travel for work and leisure. But, these have now just become more expensive.

Remittances

However, non-resident Indians (NRIs) who send money back home will end up sending more in the rupee value. As per the latest data, the country's imports expanded by 57.55% to $66.31 billion in June compared to the year-earlier month.

The merchandise trade deficit in June 2022 was estimated at $26.18 billion against $9.60 billion in June 2021, which is an increase of 172.72%.

Crude oil imports in June almost doubled to $21.3 billion. Coal and coke imports more than doubled to $6.76 billion in the month against $1.88 billion in June 2021.

It is widely expected that the Reserve Bank may go in for a third consecutive hike in the key interest rate as retail inflation continues to rule above 7%, higher than its comfort level of 6%.

To worsen the situation, the whole-sale price-based index (WPI) too continues to remain above 15%.

"The cost of all imports, including edible oil, will increase. However, since edible oil prices are falling in the international market, the depreciation of the rupee will not have much impact," said BV Mehta, Executive Director, Solvent Extractors Association of India (SEA). India had imported a record ₹1.17 lakh crore of edible oils in the 2020-21 oil year ending October.

Imports of vegetable oils stood at USD 1.81 billion in June this year, up 26.52 per cent over the same month in 2021.

In the case of fertiliser, the government subsidy bill is estimated to rise to ₹2.5 lakh crore in this fiscal against ₹1.62 lakh crore in the previous year due to the high prices of key farm ingredients in the global markets coupled with the rupee depreciation.

Ajay Sahai, Director General of FIEO, an apex body of exporters, said the rupee touching 80 against the U.S. dollar will push India's import bill and it will make containing inflation a much more difficult task.

"Prices of imported intermediate goods will go up and that will push manufacturing cost of businesses, who would pass that cost on to the consumers, which would push the price of goods.

"People who want to send their children abroad for education will face difficulty as the depreciation will make it expensive for them," Sahai added.

A report by the Finance Ministry cautioned that India's current account deficit is expected to deteriorate in the current fiscal on account of costlier imports and tepid merchandise exports. Primarily driven by an increase in the trade deficit, the CAD stood at 1.2 per cent of GDP in 2021-22.

"Depreciation will push inflation... Electronics goods price will get hit. Already because of supply chain shock in China, electronic components, especially controllers/IC, prices are almost triple in the past two years and because of fast rupee depreciation, the prices of all imported components will further rise," said Vishal Mehta, proprietor, Mehta Power Solutions.

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