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Data: Increase in India’s Goods Exports Driven Largely by Increase in Export of ‘Petroleum Products’


Data indicates that India’s goods exports increased by over 50% between the COVID-19 hit year of 2020-21 and 2022-23. During the same period, imports increased by more than 75%.  The exports in 2022-23 are also about 50% more than the exports in 2012-13. The increase in exports is largely driven by the increase in exports of ‘Petroleum Products’.

Policymakers across the globe are looking for ways to promote seamless cross-border trade. The international trade landscape is undergoing structural shifts and nations are sensing opportunities to utilize this opportunity and integrate their markets with the global markets. Trade facilitation is expected to improve by incorporating technology and digitization.

India had also embarked on an ambitious mission to make the nation self-reliant by promoting the philosophy of ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ and encouraging local products to go global. The New Foreign Trade Policy (FTP 2023) is expected to replace the previous foreign policy (2015-20), which was extended till 2023 due to a ‘volatile geo-political scenario’. The new policy is a shift from an incentive-based approach to creating an enabling ecosystem for exporters. It is based on the principles of ‘trust’ and ‘partnership’ with exporters. The FTP 2023 aims to facilitate ease of doing business for exporters, thereby integrating India further into global markets and making India an export hub.

In this context, we look at some of the trends in India’s foreign trade over the last 10 years. All the statistics are sourced from Export Import Data Bank and pertain to only goods (merchandise) and not services.  

Over 40% growth in exports and imports in 2022-23 compared to pre-pandemic levels.

India’s export and import of goods is marked with ebbs and flows. There is neither consistent growth nor decline. After a brief dip in exports and imports during the pandemic, the value of exports and imports grew significantly. Both exports and imports recorded more than forty percent growth during 2022-23 when compared to the average figures of the last decade. With the adoption of the new FTP 2023, the government of India is expecting the trade figures to further increase, thereby making India a crucial link in global value chains.

USA and UAE continue to be dominant export partners, Netherlands enters top-3 in 2022-23

Ten countries account for almost half of India’s total exports. The top export destinations for India include the United States, the United Arab Emirates, the Netherlands, China, Bangladesh, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Germany, and Indonesia. Among them, the United States remains the largest export destination, accounting for almost 18 percent of the total exports during 2022-23. It is followed by the United Arab Emirates, whose share stands at 7% in 2022-23. Interestingly, the share of UAE declined from 12% in 2012-23 to 5.7% during 2020-21, to settle at 7% in 2022-23.

The Netherlands is increasingly becoming another important export destination. The share of the Netherlands in 2012-13 was 3.5%, which fell to 2.2% during 2020-21. It increased to 4.8% in 2022-23, registering its highest share in the last decade. It jumped to 3rd position replacing China in 2022-23.

Exports of ‘refined petroleum’ rose by more than 275%

If we look at the broad trend in the exports from India, there is a significant jump from 2020-21 to 2021-22. There is almost a rise of more than 55% between 2020-21 and 2022-23. The commodity-wise analysis of the export data shows that mineral fuels, mineral oils and products, bituminous and mineral waxes (hs code 27, also known as ‘Refined Petroleum’) category rose by a whopping 275% from 2020-21 to 2022-23. This is followed by electrical machinery and parts category (hs code 85) with 101%, and the pearl and jewellery group (hs code 71) growing by 45% during the same period. The list of hs codes can be found here.

Upon further classification, under the ‘hs code 27’ category, Light oils, and preparations group (hs code 271012) grew by 245%, whereas other petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (hs code 271019) grew by 300% between 2020-21 and 2022-23.

Netherlands and UAE are top export destinations for refined petroleum.

While India imports a vast amount of crude oil, India also exports refined petroleum products to other nations. Data indicates that the export of refined petroleum rose by more than 275% between 2020-21 and 2022-23. The export of refined petroleum products to countries like Brazil, South Africa, the Netherlands, the USA, and Togo grew by more than 400%.

While the large quantities of imports by Brazil, South Africa, Netherlands, and Togo is a recent phenomenon, countries like Singapore and UAE imported refined petroleum products in large quantities from India before the pandemic also. Together, five countries namely the USA, Singapore, UAE, Netherlands, and Togo account for almost 40% of the export of refined petroleum products from India. One possible reason behind the substantial rise in imports (became 3rd largest export destination replacing China in 2022-23) of refined petroleum by the Netherlands could be the sanctions due to the Russia-Ukraine war, and India being a key Asian refining hub.  India is continuing to buy discounted crude oil from sanctions-hit Russia, refining them and exporting to other countries including the USA, and Europe.

UAE and USA tops in imports of ‘Electrical machinery’

The uptick in India’s outbound shipments is largely due to refined petroleum products. This is followed by exports of ‘electrical machinery’ (hs code 85) that saw almost 100% growth in 2022-23 when compared to 2020-21. The destination-wise analysis of exports of electrical machinery shows that the United Arab Emirates and the United States top the list of importers of electrical machinery. Both countries increased their share in imports of electrical machinery by more than 130% in 2022-23 as compared to 2020-21.

The data indicates that while there is an improvement in the overall exports, this improvement is concentrated in only a few sectors, while the rest traditionally India’s strong export sectors such as pharmaceuticals and drugs, chemicals, Rice registering minimal growth. With changing geo-political scenario and the risks of economic slowdown, these trends assume significance.


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