Balance of Trade

Narrowing trade deficit is not a sign of hope for a falling economy.

Published by Ministry of Commerce and Industry, RBI. Updated till December 2019 (Published on January 16th, 2019). 

Note: The seasonally adjusted series has been obtained using the Eviews census X-13 procedure X-11 method of seasonal adjustment.

Recent Data Trend

India's trade deficit narrowed down on a year-on-year basis to USD 11.3 billion in December as imports witnessed a broad-based contraction of 8.8% YoY for the seventh consecutive month. The trade deficit stood at USD 14.5 billion in December 2018. A sustained fall in imports continues to remain a big worry for the Indian economy. Furthermore, adding to India's trade worries, exports continued to be in the negative zone for the fifth consecutive month and contracted by 1.8% YoY in December.

The contraction in imports is broad-based, with imports of 25 out of 30 major commodities seeing negative growth in December. Cumulatively, during April-December 2019, the dip in the inbound shipments of petroleums products (-11.8% YoY), electronic goods(-2.4% YoY), and gold(-6.8% YoY) have contributed the most to overall shrinkage in imports so far. Also, a negative growth of 12.2% YoY in non-oil and non-gold imports for the fourteenth consecutive month underlined severe domestic consumption slowdown.

Merchandise exports remained subdued so far this year primarily on account of lower outbound shipments of engineering goods, petroleum products, and gems & jewellery, which are the major constituents of exports. Cumulatively, during April-December 2019, exports of the same shrank by 2% YoY, 8.3% YoY, and 6.4% YoY, respectively.

Although a shrinking trade deficit is seen as a relief, it is a major worry for the Indian economy for two reasons. First, a broad-based contraction in imports mirrors the weak domestic demand for both consumer and industrial goods, which will not augur well with India's battle to reverse its domestic slowdown. Second, given the subdued exports so far this year, if crude oil prices surge due to rising tensions between the US and Iran, import bill could soar and, in turn, could widen the trade deficit.

Brief Overview

The balance of trade data records the value of merchandise trade of India with its trading partners. The data on import and export of the Indian economy is published by the Ministry of Commerce on a monthly basis. Merchandise trade is a key indicator of the development of the economy. India’s largest trade partners include US, EU, and China. India has maintained an overall trade deficit since 1990 and in the past decade, the deficit has increased manifold. According to the World Trade Organization, India’s share export of merchandise goods in 2015 was 1.5%.

For more information visit the official government website

Next Release Date:  February 14, 2020

Trade Balance- Quarterly

Trade Balance- Annual

Note: Here years represent fiscal years. For example, 2016 refers to the period Apr'2016-Mar'2017 and so on.

Export by Commodities


Note: The YoY% has been calculated on absolute USD values.

Import by Commodities


Note: The YoY% has been calculated on absolute USD values.

World Commodity Prices

Note: The above data has been sourced from the World Bank Pink Sheet which provides monthly data on the prices of commodities. To know more about this, visit the official website.