One day after India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended the nationwide lockdown to May 3 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s Commerce & Industry Department reported in a press release that merchandise exports fell by a record 34.6 percent in March while imports declined 28.7 percent.
The agency blamed the global slowdown on the COVID-19 crisis, noting the lockdown has disrupted the supply chain and hurt demand, resulting in canceled orders.
Exports fell to $21.4 billion last month, down from 32.7 billion for March 2019.
Commodities, including meat, dairy and poultry products, fell by 45.5 percent in March, while engineering goods were off 42.3 percent, and jewelry slipped by 41 percent.
Mint, an Indian financial daily newspaper, reported that Engineering Export Promotion Council Chairman Ravi Sehgal said he was not surprised by the sharp dip in exports given the pandemic and most of the world’s economies locked down.
“April would be worse as international trade excepting medicine and essential supplies has come to a near halt,” he said. “Exporters are facing a question of survival.”
Imports also took a hit, down overall by 28.7 percent.
The pandemic has also caused oil imports to fall by 15 percent to $10 billion as crude oil prices collapsed and demand within the country diminished, the release said.
There was at least one piece of good news in the release said. The merchandise trade deficit for fiscal year 2020 was $152.8 billion, that’s down from $184 billion one year ago. The agency said the reduction in imports was the result of low demand in the county.
On Tuesday, The Hindu reported Modi went on TV to extend the lockdown.
“After speaking to all states and even based on suggestions from our citizens, the lockdown has been extended to May 3,” he told the nation. “Till April 20, identified hotspots will see even more strict checks and only when there is some success in dealing with the outbreak in designated hotspots, will some freedom of mobility be granted, that too under strict conditions.”