Port productivity gains power India's export growth

Port productivity gains power India's export growth

Despite continuing weak global demand, India’s merchandise exports increased for the fourth month in a row in December, reflecting port productivity gains from ongoing Sagar Mala investments, and ease of doing business measures could be a driver of that positive trend.

Exports in December were up 5.7 percent year-over-year to $23.9 billion from $22.6 billion, according to preliminary trade statistics released by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

Total exports for the first three fiscal quarters through the end of December totaled $199 billion, inching up nearly 1 percent year-over-year from $197.3 billion.

Notably, that growth came even as China recorded a 7.5 percent fall in its global exports in October, the latest month for which data was available.

“Looking at the continuous positive trend of growth in exports, we are on our course to achieve exports of about $270 billion to $280 billion during the current fiscal [year],” said S.C. Ralhan, president of the Federation of Indian Export Organisations, in a written statement. “The focus in such challenging times should be on marketing with proactive support from the government.”

The value of imports last month edged up 0.5 percent from December 2015 to $34.2 billion. April-to-December imports were down 7.4 percent year-over-year to $275.3 billion, narrowing India’s cumulative trade deficit with the rest of the world to about $76.5 billion from $100 billion in the same period in 2015, new statistics show.

Though the commerce ministry will have a hard time getting close to its long-term export target of $900 billion by 2020, it is expected that the pace of trade growth will accelerate in the coming months.

That optimism is based in part on faster cargo flows at major, or public, ports thanks to digitization of customs procedures and other stakeholder initiatives.

Port productivity data collected by JOC.com, part of IHS Markit, showed all dominant container ports booked significantly lower dwell times year-over-year in the first eight fiscal months through the end of November. Those figures were as follows: Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust at 2.72 days, from 3.16 days during April to November 2015; Chennai Port at 2.57 days, from 3.05 days; V.O. Chidambaranar (Tuticorin) at 1.99 days, from 2.13 days; and Cochin Port at 5.49 days, from 5.88 days.

High logistics costs have long been a major industry concern. That complex issue also is being slowly addressed, with upgraded port connectivity, abolition of controversial shipping surcharges, and construction of new deep-sea hub ports to reduce reliance on foreign transshipment ports for mainline shipping connections.