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Last updated: 20 Oct, 2020  

Exports.9.Thmb.jpg Exports: Where are we heading

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Bikky Khosla | 20 Oct, 2020

Merchandise exports in September rose by 5.99 percent y-o-y to $27.58 billion, according to latest official figures. In August, exports contraction had widened to (-) 12.66 percent at $22.70 billion, after (-) 10.12 percent in July and (-) 12.41 percent in June. So, the September exports figures seem somewhat encouraging. They signal to gradual recovery of trade activities toward normalcy globally, after a long, challenging period of contraction caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A deeper look into the September exports figures shows that 22 out of the 30 major product groups registered growth in the month, and more importantly, some labour-intensive sectors witnessed double-digit growth, though performance by some such sectors was not that impressive. Also, some major constituents of our export basket turned positive or have started showing signs of revival in the month. However, reduction in imports, particularly of the materials used as inputs by labour-intensive sectors of exports, is not a good sign.

While the September monthly figures inspire some optimism, exports in the first five months of the financial year - April to September - give a dull picture, however. During this period we have exported lots of raw materials ranging from rice and cereals to iron ore, while exports from our major sectors like ready-made garments, leather goods,  gems and jewellery, engineering products and electronics, etc. have contracted in the range of 15 -55 percent. No doubt, this trend is a concern.

Meanwhile, amid recent news that India's per capita GDP may be lower for 2020 than that of neighboring Bangladesh, a new paper titled "India's Export-Led Growth: Exemplar and Exception" views that while the latter's slice of low-skilled goods exports is in line with its share of poor-country working-age population, India is not following such a strategy. We are not giving adequate importance to production in our key low-skill sectors which have massive exports and employment generation prowess. We need to change this approach.

I invite your opinions.

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