New Delhi, Feb. 11: The country’s trade deficit narrowed to $9.92 billion in January, helped by a 77 per cent fall in gold and silver imports even as exports grew about 4 per cent.
Buoyed by the trend, the commerce ministry has favoured the relaxation of curbs on gold imports. Last month, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi had forwarded a letter from the All India Gems and Jewellery Association to the commerce ministry seeking a tariff cut.
Gold and silver imports shrank 77 per cent to $1.72 billion in January from $7.49 billion in the same period last year, commerce secretary Rajeev Kher said today.
For the first 10 months of the current fiscal, imports of gold and silver stood at $29 billion compared with $46.7 billion in the year-ago period, registering a huge year-on-year decline of 37 per cent, Kher said.
Trade deficit declined to $9.92 billion in January from $18.97 billion a year ago and $10.14 billion in December.
Kher said there were no restrictions on the export of gold but the ministry had sought the removal of import curbs. “Exports of gems & jewellery should not get affected by the 80:20 scheme. But we have recommended a relaxation in the restrictions (import),” Kher said.
India has raised gold import duty to 10 per cent and clamped down on bullion supplies through banks and trading agencies.
The efforts were aimed at keeping the trade deficit in check, which is essential to bring down the current account deficit (CAD).
The Centre expects to keep CAD below $50 billion this fiscal against a record $87.8 billion in the last fiscal, which had triggered a fall in the rupee.
According to data, exports rose 3.79 per cent to $26.75 billion in January from $25.78 billion in the corresponding month of the previous year.
Imports slumped 18.07 per cent to $36.57 billion in January.