Goods exports up 33% from pre-pandemic levels: Piyush Goyal 

Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal addresses a press conference, in New Delhi, on April 3, 2022.

Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal addresses a press conference, in New Delhi, on April 3, 2022. | Photo Credit: Twitter/@PiyushGoyal

India’s goods exports grew 43.2% in 2021-22 to nearly $418 billion dollars, rising over $125 billion over the COVID-hit year 2020-21, with March recording the highest ever outbound shipments worth $40.38 billion, the Commerce and Industry Ministry said on Sunday.

The record exports in the year gone by constituted a 33.33% surge over the pre-pandemic levels of 2019-20. Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said total exports were about 5% higher than the $400 billion target for the year, which had been crossed by March 21.

The government did not release data on imports that usually accompanies the official monthly export figures. Total merchandise imports had crossed $550 billion by February 2022, leading to a trade deficit of $175.75 billion in the first eleven months of the year. Goods imports in 2020-21 stood at $393.6 billion.

A bulk of the merchandise exports growth was attributed to engineering goods and agriculture products’ exports, both of which hit an all-time high in 2021-22. Engineering goods exports grew 46% over the year at $111 billion, of which about $16 billion worth goods were shipped to the U.S. alone. Agricultural exports are reckoned to have crossed $50 billion with a sharp growth in rice, wheat, marine products, coffee and dairy products.    

“Even a pandemic like COVID-19 and the war like situation has not deterred our export target for the year. These results reflect what is possible when there is decisive leadership from a leader like PM Narendra Modi with a ‘whole of government’ and ‘whole of nation’ approach,” Mr. Goyal said.

The Minister stressed that the growth has occurred in products where small and medium enterprises are active as well as labour-intensive sectors like jute products, textiles, leather, gems and jewellery. Mr. Goyal said the government will continue to work hard to enhance exports from MSMEs and the farm sector and push job creation.

He also congratulated farmers for raising their productivity so that wheat exports have grown from 2 lakh tonnes in 2019-20 to 21.55 lakh tonnes last year and over 70 lakh tonnes in 2021-22. About half of this wheat was exported to Bangladesh largely through the Petrapole land border, said Commerce Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam.

“We will continue to export wheat in a big way to countries that have been affected by the conflict in Ukraine and Russia (major global wheat suppliers) and hope to export 100 lakh tonnes of wheat this year comfortably,” Mr. Goyal said.

Even though a part of the growth in exports may have been driven by rising commodity prices, the performance has been laudable, said Aditi Nayar, chief economist at ICRA, who had expected full year exports to touch $415 billion.

‘Push for Value-Add, New Markets’

Mr. Subrahmanyam pointed out that India is no longer just a primary goods exporter and commodities or raw materials that traditionally saw high exports have actually seen a decline in 2021-22, pointing to dipping iron ore and oilmeal exports.

“These are the areas where the government is deliberately saying we should manufacture here and export manufactured goods,” he said, adding that there was a greater impetus for finished goods and processed products. “In textiles, our exports are $35 billion of which raw cotton is just about $3 billion. The rest of it is processed. We have exported mobile phones worth $6 billion,”  

“Other than raw cotton, other agricultural exports and iron ore, we are largely a processed goods exporter which is why it is very important for us to have free trade agreements with the developed world, so that value-added exports can grow and create jobs,” Mr. Goyal said.

Officials emphasised that the growth in shipments came from diversified industries, including sectors like electronics where India was a large importer and has clocked exports of $15.58 billion in 2021-22 compared to $11 billion in the previous year.

Some of the other sectors recording the highest growth included petroleum products largely exported to the UAE, drugs and pharmaceutical products with Netherlands as their biggest buyer. Bangladesh was the biggest importer of Indian chemicals, while China was the biggest procurer of gems and jewellery from India.

They also underlined that Indian products’ reach has spread wider with developed countries beginning to import significantly higher value goods.

“Indian exports were earlier dominated by neighbouring and ASEAN nations, but this year recorded a significant jump in exports to developed countries like the US, Netherlands, Hong Kong, Singapore, UK, Belgium and Germany,” said Santosh Sarangi, the Director General of Foreign Trade.

‘2022-23 Challenges’

“You will bear in mind there is a conflict situation going on because of which shipping lines are disturbed, container shortages are there and shipping costs have gone up. Trade and supply chains are affected worldwide, so the fact that we have crossed $40 billion exports in March with all these challenges gives us confidence,” the minister said, adding that the Free Trade Agreements with Australia and the UAE will help boost exports this year.

For setting the export target for this year, Mr. Goyal said export promotion councils will work out sectoral possibilities and Indian missions abroad will evaluate prospects in different importing nations, which will then be translated into an ‘ambitious target’.

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Printable version | May 22, 2022 3:12:16 pm |