During the entire fiscal 2020-21, merchandise exports contracted 7.26 per cent YoY at $290.63 billion.

India’s merchandise exports surged to $34.45 billion, up 60 per cent year-on-year (YoY) in March, on the back of a low base effect in the lockdown-hit corresponding month last year.

On a sequential basis, the growth in merchandise exports was 23 per cent, the data released by the ministry of commerce and industry on Thursday showed. In terms of value of exports, it has surpassed previous high of $32.55 in March 2019 — nearly a year before the outbreak of the pandemic, signalling recovery in demand.

Experts said the jump in outward shipments is generally also a year-end phenomenon, with exporters trying to meet their annual targets.

However, imports grew sharply to $48.38 billion in March, up nearly 54 per cent YoY, led by a jump in inward shipments of gold that saw a sevenfold increase.

As a result, despite the sharp jump in exports, the trade deficit — the gap between imports and exports — for March jumped nearly 40 per cent to $13.93 billion, against a deficit of $9.98 billion during the year-ago period.

During the entire fiscal 2020-21, merchandise exports contracted 7.26 per cent YoY at $290.63 billion. Similarly, imports also shrank 18.02 per cent to $389.18 billion, mainly due to delay in revival in domestic manufacturing due to the pandemic. The trade deficit for the entire fiscal year narrowed to $98.56 billion, against $161.35 billion in the year-ago period.

“The sharp expansion in merchandise exports and imports in March reflects a combination of factors such as a muted base, rising commodity prices reflecting post-vaccine optimism, as well as a surge in volumes at the end of the year. Non-oil merchandise exports surged by $12 billion in March, relative to the year-ago month, more than two-thirds of which was on account of engineering goods, gems and jewelry, electronic goods, drugs and pharmaceuticals, organic and inorganic chemicals, and iron ore,” Aditi Nayar, chief economist at ICRA, said.

“March exports showed a double-digit growth of almost 60.50 per cent, showing not only impressive signs of further revival for the sector but for the overall economy as well…defying all the odds during these difficult times,” Federation of Indian Export Organisations President Sharad Kumar Saraf said.