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India exported goods worth $18.79 billion during the first two weeks of April, up 37 per cent compared to the same period last year, as external demand continued to remain robust, according to commerce department’s preliminary data.

Excluding petroleum products, the growth in this period was 23.64 per cent over the same period of 2021-22.

Imports grew at a faster pace, with the value of inbound shipments at $25.84 billion, up by 12.24 per cent over the same period of 2021-22. Trade deficit was at $5 billion.

Imports, excluding petroleum products, which comprises the lion’s share in India’s import basket, also increased in this period by 18.24 per cent over the same period of 2021-22.

During the previous year, India surpassed the $400-billion target for merchandise exports, ending the year with over $419 billion, growing by nearly a fifth.

The department of commerce is yet to set the target for this fiscal year, but meetings with export promotion councils and the external affairs minister is also underway to finalise the target. Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal had last week said the final call regarding the target will be taken by the Prime Minister.

While there could be some disruption in exports due to the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, government officials are confident that the free trade pacts signed with Australia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) will augur well for India and boost exports further.

Similarly, India also reached the target of $250 billion in case of service exports, despite the pandemic causing disruption in the tourism and hospitality sector. The target for services exports is now set at $300 billion.