New Delhi– India’s trade deficit in February at $12 billion narrowed from an over a four-year high of the previous month at $16.3 billion, as exports picked up while imports moderated, official data showed on Thursday.

Indian exports in January had plunged nearly 10 per cent to $24.38 billion.

According to figures released by the Commerce Ministry, the trade deficit in February, however, was 36.36 per cent higher than in the same month a year ago at $9.5 billion mainly on account of higher prices paid on oil imports.

Exports in February at $25.8 billion rose 4.5 per cent as compared to the corresponding month of last year.

The country’s imports last month grew 10.4 per cent to $37.8 billion, as compared to the $34.2 billion worth of imports in February 2017.

“Exports have been on a positive trajectory since August 2016 to February 2018 except for a temporary setback in October 2017,” a ministry statement said.

Major commodity groups of export showing positive growth in February over the corresponding month of last year are petroleum products (27.44 per cent), organic and inorganic chemicals (30.41 per cent), drugs and pharmaceuticals (13.92 per cent), rice (21.29 per cent) and electronic goods (29.71 per cent).

The cumulative value of exports during the April-February period of the current fiscal at $274 billion registered a healthy growth of 11.02 per cent over the $247 billion exported in the same 11 months of last year.

“Non-petroleum and non-gems and jewellery exports in February 2018 were valued at $18.7 billion as against $18.2 billion in February 2017, an increase of 3.39 per cent,” the ministry said.

Oil imports during February were valued at $10.2 billion, which was 32.05 per cent higher than the $ 7.7 billion worth of crude imported in the same month last year.

“Global Brent prices ($/barrel) have increased by 17.90 per cent in February 2018 vis-à-vis February 2017 as per World Bank commodity price data,” the statement said.

Instead, the positive trade balance in services rose to a 25-month high of $6.5 billion in January 2018, according to Reserve Bank of India (RBI) data. Services exports during the month at $16.3 billion outpaced imports of $9.8 billion.

Annoucing the trade figures earlier in the day, Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia said the government is looking at a 6.5 per cent export growth over the coming fiscal.

Also, reacting to the US challenge at the World Trade Organisation on Wednesday against almost all of India’s export subsidy programmes, Teaotia said that India would respond to America’s challenge to export subsidies in 60 days. (IANS)