India's merchandise exports plunged by over 34 per cent in advance a year-on-year basis to $21.41 billion from $32.72 billion reported for the corresponding period of the previous year.
"The decline in exports has been mainly due to the ongoing global slowdown, which got aggravated due to the current Covid-19 crisis. The latter resulted in large-scale disruptions in supply chains and demand, resulting in cancellation of orders," the Ministry of Commerce and Industry said in a statement.
"Except for iron ore, which registered a growth of 58.43 per cent, all other commodity groups have registered negative growth in March 2020 vis-a-vs March 2019."
Similarly, imports declined by 28.72 per cent to $31.16 billion in March from $43.72 billion reported for the corresponding month of 2019.
"Oil imports in March 2020 were $10.01 billion, which was 15 per cent lower in dollar terms, compared to $11.78 billion in March 2019," the ministry said in the statement.
"Non-oil imports in March 2020 were estimated at $21.15 billion which was 33.78 per cent lower in Dollar terms, compared to $31.94 billion in March 2019."
Besides, non-oil and non-gold imports were $19.92 billion in March 2020, recording a negative growth of (-) 30.47 per cent, as compared to non-oil and non-gold imports of $28.65 billion in March 2019.
Consequently, India's deficit narrowed to $9.76 billion on a year-on-year basis in March from $11 billion reported for the corresponding month of last year.
March's deficit was much less than the $9.85 billion deficit reported for February 2020.
Reacting to the integer decline in monthly exports, FIEO President Sharad Kumar Saraf said that spread Covid-19 across the planet has not only pulled down the world sentiment to its lowest but has also affected the worldwidesupply chain and brought economies to a recessionary condition.
"Global economies are facing the worst crisis in terms of slowdown compared to the global depression of the 1930s," Saraf was quoted as saying in a s tatement.
Saraf added that the annual merchandise exports figure of $314.31 bn with a nominal negative growth of 4.78 percent is on the expected lines as exporters weren't ready to export during the 2nd half March thanks to lockdown, cancellations and delay of shipments and orders.
ICRA's Principal Economist Aditi Nayar said: "Merchandise exports and imports recorded a sharp plunge in March 2020, in the aftermath of the Covid-19 lockdowns and commodity price correction, a precursor to the further worsening expected in the ongoing month."
"However, the volume of oil imports appears to have risen to take advantag e of the subdued prices, preventing a sharper correction in the merchandise t rade deficit in March 2020."