Import & Export


India's total merchandise trade has increased over three-fold from $252bn in 2006 to $794 in 2012 - both exports and imports have trebled during this period according to the Export-Import Bank of India (Exim bank). The bank is the premier export finance institution of the country and was set up for the purpose of financing, facilitating, and promoting foreign trade of India.

Crude petroleum is India's biggest import with $155bn spent on it in 2012. Imports of gold and silver amounted to $62bn and electronic goods and pearls and precious stones are also top import items for the country.
India's top import source is China followed by the UAE, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia. The UK came in at 21st place in 2011-12 with India importing a total of $7.7bn. In the six months recorded so far for 2012-13, the UK has dropped a place and has a 1.4% share of the India's import sources.
The table below shows India's imports and exports by country including the share. The downloadable spreadsheet also has data on the top import and export products for the country.

A publication on India's trade and investment by Exim bank highlights the trend in exports moving towards southern countries, particularly in the Asia and Africa regions. Asia is a key destination of India's exports - in 2001-02 Asia's share stood at 40.2% but in 2011-12 it grew to to 51.6%. Europe, however has seen a decline in its share, down to 19% in 2011-12 from 24.8% in 2001-02.
India's key exports in 2012 were petroleum products which generated $56bn, followed by gems and jewellery with $47bn. Pharma products, transport equipment, machinery and readymade garments are also big exports for India.
The 2012 data shows that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was India's biggest export market, closely followed by the USA. The latest data available from the Indian Government's Ministry of Commerce and Industry covering April-September 2012, shows the US to have slightly overtaken the UAE. Explore the graphic above to see India's imports and exports by value and year. The UK is the eighth biggest export market for India and held 2.9% of the market share in April-September 2012.

Data summary

Top ten exporters to India, by value of trade in US$m and share of total

Country 2012-2013 (Apr- Sep) %Share (2012-2013 (Apr- Sep)
CHINA 28025.57 11.92
UAE 19622.81 8.35
SAUDI ARABIA 16094.83 6.85
USA 12208.05 5.19
SWITZERLAND 10779.45 4.59
IRAQ 9803.79 4.17
QATAR 8144.45 3.47
KUWAIT 8134.73 3.46
GERMANY 7154.41 3.04
INDONESIA 6944.86 2.95

Top ten importers from India, by value of trade in US$m and share of total

Country 2012-2013 (Apr- Sep) %Share (2012-2013 (Apr- Sep)
USA 19704.05 13.87
UAE 18601.71 13.09
SINGAPORE 6652.77 4.68
CHINA 6417.32 4.52
HONG KONG 6137.9 4.32
SAUDI ARAB 4636.29 3.26
NETHERLANDS 4458.24 3.14
U K 4112.26 2.89
GERMANY 3491.77 2.46
BRAZIL 3042.64 2.14

India’s Top Import Partners

Officially named the Republic of India, this South Asian nation shares borders with China, Nepal and Bhutan to its north-east, Burma and Bangladesh to its east, and Pakistan to its west.
India shipped US$264 billion worth of products around the globe in 2015. That figure represents roughly 1.4% of overall global exports estimated at $18.686 trillion.
From a continental perspective, 49.4% of India’s total exports by value in 2015 were delivered to other Asian trade partners.
European importers purchased 18.7% of Indian shipments while 17.1% worth arrived in North America.
At 9.7%, a smallest portion of Indian exports were bought by African importers.

Below is a list showcasing 15 of India’s top import partners, countries that imported the most Indian shipments by dollar value during 2015. Also shown is each import country’s percentage of total Indian exports.

  • United States: US$40.4 billion (15.3% of total India exports)
  • United Arab Emirates: $30.3 billion (11.5%)
  • Hong Kong: $12.2 billion (4.6%)
  • China: $9.5 billion (3.6%)
  • United Kingdom: $8.9 billion (3.4%)
  • Singapore: $7.8 billion (2.9%)
  • Germany: $7 billion (2.7%)
  • Saudi Arabia: $7 billion (2.6%)
  • Sri Lanka: $5.5 billion (2.1%)
  • Bangladesh: $5.5 billion (2.1%)
  • Vietnam: $5.3 billion (2%)
  • Belgium: $5 billion (1.9%)
  • Malaysia: $4.9 billion (1.9%)
  • Netherlands: $4.9 billion (1.8%)
  • France: $4.8 billion (1.8%)

Three-fifths (60.2%) of Indian exports in 2015 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
Bangladesh increased its import purchases from India from 2011 to 2015 by 60.8%. In second place was Vietnam with a 52.9% gain in value. Saudi Arabia boosted its imports from India by 35.8%.
Leading the decliners was Singapore which cut back its imports from India by -50.2%. Dutch import purchases from India fell in value by -49.7%.

Latest Export and Import Figure

What do India’s latest export and import figures tell us?
India’s latest export and import figures for May 2015 reflect the subdued economic scenario both globally and within the country. India’s exports contracted 20.2 per cent to $22.3 billion from what they were in May 2014, while its imports were down 16.5 per cent over the same period.
India’s exports and imports have both contracted for six consecutive months, that is, from December 2014 onwards. Looking at the previous year, the December 2013 to May 2014 period also saw a continuous contraction in imports, except March 2014, which saw a marginal uptick in imports. Exports in this period, however, saw robust growth, especially in March, April and May 2014. To be sure, these trends have more to do with the global economic scenario than internal reasons.

As can be seen in the chart above, India consistently runs a trade deficit—it imports more than it exports. The most recent contraction in exports and imports has led to a fall in India’s trade deficit to $10.4 billion from $11.2 billion in May 2014 and $11 billion in April 2015.
Looking ahead, the consensus is that poor global growth—especially in the US, China, the euro area and Japan—will continue to affect India’s exports detrimentally. Import growth, on the other hand, might bounce back if gold imports continue trending up. Data shows gold import growth has been positive since August 2014.

Gold imports increased 10.5 per cent over their May 2014 figures, but this is far lower than the 78.3 per cent growth seen in April. In fact, in absolute terms, the $2.4 billion of gold imports in May were a three-month low. The increase in the value of gold imports was driven more by volumes than by the price of gold. India imported 63 tonnes of gold in May 2015, up 19 per cent from the May 2014 figures. Gold prices, on the other hand, were down 7 per cent last month.
This scenario is the converse of what happened with oil imports.
Oil imports in May, at $8.5 billion, were 41 per cent lower than what they were in May 2014, marking the eighth straight month of contraction. Unlike in gold, however, this fall in the value of imports was driven by falling prices rather than a dip in volumes imported. As can be seen from the graph above, the growth in imports and exports of oil faithfully follow the price changes.

Weak global and Indian demand didn’t just affect oil and gold, however. India’s exports in many commodities fell in May 2015. Rice exports, for example, contracted 14.6 per cent over their May 2014 level, while the export of other grains contracted a whopping 77.7 per cent. The exports of iron ore and gems & jewellery similarly fell 86 per cent and 12.9 per cent, respectively.
Overall, it is important to note that the ongoing contraction of imports and exports is an indication of subdued global and Indian demand. At the moment, GDP growth in the US is negative, China’s growth has decelerated to a six-year low and the euro area and Japan are seeing only marginal growth.
Within India, although the Index of Industrial Production for May showed a revival in production and therefore demand, the consensus is that demand still has to pick up significantly to bolster any real growth in the economy.

Top 10 export products from India

Here are the 10 commodities most exported from India and their dollar value:
1. Petroleum products:
Value - 61.2 billion dollars
Oil-based products and crude oil giants such as Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited, Bharat Petroleum, Reliance Petroleum, ONGC and et al have contributed largely to the export sector of India. Although the country is hugely dependent on oil imports, export of oil-based products has supported the economy to a large extent.

2. Precious stones:
Value - 41.2 billion dollars
India consumes around 20 percent of the global gold production and 75 percent of that amount goes into making jewellery. The jewellery sector is also supported by banks and government policies so that the industry does not fall drastically. Around 30 percent of Indian jewellery gets exported to the United States alone. Other such countries include Hong Kong, UAE, Singapore and Belgium.

3. Automobile:
Value - 14.5 billion dollars
From 2008 to 2013, the Indian automobile export sector has seen a rise 17 percent, one of the fastest economic growth that has ever taken place in the sector. Being one of the leading steel producers in the world, India invests largely on the automobile sector and its export.

4. Machinery:
Value - 13.6 billion dollars
There has been a 10.5 percent increase in the export of heavy machinery from India. These include cars, pumps, heavy machines, building construction tools, agricultural equipment and so on.

5. Bio-chemicals:
Value - 12 billion dollars
Manufacturing bio-chemicals is a nationwide business in India. The sector contributes hugely to the national economy and is an essential part of it. Manufacturers and exporters are spread all over the country. Research facilities have also supported this sector to a large extent.

6. Pharmaceuticals:
Value - 11.7 billion dollars
Being a research-based industry, the Pharmaceuticals sector in India has seen a huge growth over the past few decades. Major Pharma industries such as J. B. Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals Limited, Suven Life Sciences Limited, Dr. Reddy's Laboratories, Aurobindo Pharma, Luipin, Ranbaxy, Sun Pharma, Zydus Cadila, Glowchem and Calyx play a huge role in promoting the sector to the world market.

7. Cereals:
Value - 10.1 billion dollars
India is one the leading exporters of cereals and the second largest producer of rice. Being an agriculture-driven country, India depends largely on its produce of cereals and so does the importer countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, UAE and Bangladesh.

8. Iron and steel:
Value - 9 billion dollars
Before the Independence, India used to depend on its import of Iron and Steel. But now, the country has gone through such an industrial growth that it has become forth largest steel producer in the world forth largest steel producer in the world. Steel tycoons such as TISCO, IISCO, Bhilai Iron and Steel Centre, Visweswaraya Iron And Steel Limited play a major role in the Iron and Steel export from India.

9. Textile:
Value - 9 billion dollars
Textile is India's trump card when it comes to exports. India tops the chart in jute production and also holds 63 percent of the global market share in textiles and garments.

10. Electronics:
Value - 9 billion dollars
When it comes to manufacturing electronic equipment, India is still seen as an importing country. But, the export part of this sector thrives silently yet largely. India has the third largest pool of electronic scientists and engineers and the domestic demand of electronic goods propels the industry to gorw faster and stronger, making export all the more important.