The country's exports for the first time crossed the $400 billion mark in a fiscal on healthy performance by sectors such as petroleum products, engineering, gems and jewellery, and chemicals, according to the commerce ministry's data released on Wednesday.
The merchandise exports rose by by 37 per cent to $400.8 billion in 2021-22 until March 21 against $292 billion in 2020-21. Previously, the outbound shipments had touched a record of $330.07 billion in 2018-19.
Imports during the period stood at $589 billion, leaving a trade deficit of about $189 billion.
Hailing the country's success in achieving its goods export target, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that this is a key milestone in India's 'Aatmanirbhar Bharat' journey.
The highest ever goods export target was achieved nine days ahead of the March 31 deadline.
''India set an ambitious target of $400 billion of goods exports and achieves this target for the first time ever. I congratulate our farmers, weavers, MSMEs, manufacturers, exporters for this success. This is a key milestone in our Aatmanirbhar Bharat journey. #LocalGoesGlobal,'' Modi tweeted.
Briefing media, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said that despite all adversities including COVID-19 pandemic, and Russia-Ukraine war, India has achieved this milestone.
''First time in history, India has crossed $400 billion in merchandise exports...if this was a movie like The Kashmir Files, it would be called a Make in India blockbuster,'' Goyal told reporters here.
He added that closer interaction with states and districts; engagement with exporters; faster resolution of their issues; actively engaging with different export promotion councils, industry associations and other stakeholders have helped in reaching this milestone.
On average, goods worth about $33 billion were shipped every month and about $1 billion every day.
The key export sectors, which contributed to record healthy growth include petroleum products, engineering, gems and jewellery, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. The top five export destinations are the US, the UAE, China, Bangladesh, and the Netherlands.
Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) Santosh Kumar Sarangi said that going by the trend, ''we would be adding $10-12 billion in the remaining nine days'', taking the exports by end of 2021-22 to over $410 billion.
Commenting on the data, Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) Director General Ajay Sahai said crossing $400 billion is a remarkable achievement as exporters have added over $110 billion in one year to reach here despite huge logistics challenges, including container shortage, skyrocketing freight and liquidity constraints.
''What is more important is to build on it, as we will have benefits of new free trade agreements and the PLI scheme (production linked incentive) backing us,'' he said.
FIEO Vice-President Khalid Khan termed the achievement as a ''landmark'' and said that despite the COVID-19 pandemic exports have ''done so well''.
Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC) Chairman Narendra Goenka said that India crossing $400 billion merchandise exports marks the beginning of an era of exponential growth and dominance in world trade.
''From here, the growth rates are going to be exponential,'' Goenka added.
(With inputs from PTI)