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India's February trade deficit widens to $18.71 billion, exports at 11-month high

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India's merchandise trade deficit widened to $18.71 billion in February from $17.49 billion in January, the commerce ministry said on March 15. The trade deficit stood at $16.57 billion in February 2023.

While the trade deficit widened in February, exports rose by 11.9 percent from the year-ago period to $41.40 billion and imports were up 12.2 percent at $60.11 billion.

At $41.40 billion, India's merchandise exports in February were the highest in 11 months. The last time they were higher was in March 2023, when they come in at $41.96 billion. Imports, meanwhile, were at a four-month high.

In terms of the year-on-year increase, the export growth seen in February is the highest since a 30.1 percent rise was posted in June 2022. The import growth of 12.2 percent in February is the highest since September 2022's 12.6 percent.

"Despite the Ukraine war, Suez Canal, tight monetary policies in western world and fall in commodity prices, February trade data has surpassed all our expectations, with highest export growth achieved in both goods and services in the last 11 months," Commerce Secretary Sunil Barthwal told the media.

"When we close 2023-24, (we) expect overall exports to be higher than last fiscal's record export figures," he said.

India's merchandise exports in 2022-23 were $451.07 billion, while services exports stood at $325.33 billion. 

Total exports amounted to $776.40 billion, 14.8 percent higher than in 2021-22.For April 2023-February 2024 as a whole, India's trade deficit amounted to $225.20 billion, down from $245.94 billion in the first 11 months of 2022-23.