Out of 30 major items, 16 categories show growth; trade deficit down at $9.8 billion.

Merchandise exports showed a mild recovery in February after contracting for six consecutive months amid fears that the Covid-19 pandemic could pause the recovery process.

Exports rose 2.9% on-year in February, while imports grew at a slower pace of 2.5%, leading to narrowing of trade deficit at $9.8 billion in the month, data released by the commerce and industry ministry showed on Friday. Imports grew after having continuously declined for eight straight months.

“Despite global challenges, Indian exports once again enter into growth trajectory in Feb 20 after a gap of 6 months. Exports of electronic goods and Chemicals grow at 37% and 16%, respectively,” commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal said in a tweet.

Trade deficit was $15.17 billion in January. Out of the 30 major export items, 16 categories showed growth.

“In the wake of Novel coronavirus, which not only pulled down the global sentiments but also affected the supply chain both internationally and domestically, such modest growth is encouraging,” said Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) President Sharad Kumar Saraf.

However, Saraf cautioned that the impact of pandemic will be more visible in exports figure of March onwards.

While exports of pharmaceuticals (8.33%), chemicals (16.3%), engineering goods (8.7%), electronic goods (37%), petroleum (10.1%) picked up during the month, shipments of gems and jewellery and readymade garments continued to contract. They shrank 20.1% and 4.5%, respectively.

Global players including China, US, economies of Europe, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Russia and the Gulf countries are also facing the brunt as oil and commodity prices have shown a drastic decline in recent days.

Among major imports, petroleum products (14.3%), plastic materials (0.45%), precious stones (13.2%), nonferrous metal (6.8%), machinery (9%) and transport equipment (6.1%), grew.

Going with the current trend, FIEO expects 2019-20 goods exports to remain in the range of $320-325 billion.

“Though exports in February,2020 managed to achieve a positive growth , the outlook looks grim going forward due to pandemic Coronavirus which has affected almost all countries in the world,” said EEPC India Chairman Ravi Sehgal.

Non-oil non-gold imports, a measure of strength of domestic demand, recorded a subdued 0.9% contraction in February.