New Delhi, Apr 13 (PTI) India’s exports dipped after a gap of four months in March but finished 2017-18 with a healthy rise of 9.78 per cent to USD 302.84 billion.

The 0.66 per cent decline during March was mainly on account of contraction in shipments of key sectors such as petroleum and gems and jewellery.

The last time exports fell was in October 2017, when they had declined by 1.12 per cent.

Imports during the month under review rose by 7.15 per cent to USD 42.8 billion, leaving a trade deficit of USD 13.69 billion, according to data released by the Commerce Ministry today.

During 2017-18, imports increased by 19.59 per cent to USD 459.67 billion and the trade deficit widened to USD 156.83 billion during the fiscal as compared to USD 108.5 billion in 2016-17.

The country’s merchandise exports crossed the USD 300 billion mark in 2017-18 after a gap of two financial years. The figure stood at USD 310.30 in 2014-15.

The trade deficit — the difference between exports and imports — of USD 156.83 billion during the fiscal is the highest since 2012-13, when it was at USD 190.30 billion.

Expressing concern, the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) said it is worried about the export growth in labour-intensive sectors such as gems and jewellery, textiles, jute and agri products.

These sectors are facing the problem of liquidity as banks and lending agencies are tightening their norms, which does not augur well for exports for the new fiscal, it said in a statement.

“Though the global scenario reflecting forecast for global trade by WTO in 2018 at 4.4 per cent and may moderate to 4 per cent during 2019 shows encouraging scenario for global exports, however trade tensions may pose challenges for exports,” it added.

Oil imports during the month under review were valued at USD 11.11 billion, 13.92 per cent higher than the same month previous year. Non-oil imports grew by 4.96 per cent to USD 31.69 billion during the month.

During 2017-18, oil imports recorded a growth of 25.47 per cent to USD 109.11 billion.

Gold imports dropped by 40 per cent to USD 2.49 billion in March.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.