India’s exports dipped by a record 34.57% in March due to a sharp decline in shipments of petroleum products, gems, jewellery and leather, which has taken the total exports in the period 2019-2020 to $314.31 billion, government data showed on Wednesday.

“The decline in exports has been mainly due to the ongoing global slowdown, which got aggravated due to the current Covid-19 crisis,” a statement from the commerce ministry said. “The latter resulted in large-scale disruptions in supply chains and demand, resulting in cancellation of orders.”

Merchandise exports in March was at $21.41 billion, falling by 34.57% when compared to $32.72 billion in the same month last year. This is reportedly the sharpest fall in monthly exports since 2008-’09 when shipments went down by 33.3% in March 2009, according to PTI.

India’s imports also contracted by 28.72% to $31.16 billion. This is said to be the biggest dip since November 2015 when imports went down by 30.26%. The fall in exports and imports narrowed the trade deficit, which is the difference between imports and exports, in March to $9.76 billion – the lowest in the last 13 months. It was $11 billion in March last year.

While oil imports contracted by 15% to $10 billion, gold imports fell by 62.64% to $1.22 billion in March 2019. “Except for Iron ore, which registered a growth of 58.43%, all other commodity/commodity groups have registered negative growth in March 2020 vis-a-vs March 2019,” the ministry’s statement said.

The Federation of Indian Export Organisations said this is the highest-ever double digit dip in exports in recent history and added that recovery was expected only after the second quarter of the 2021 financial year, reported The Indian Express. India Ratings and Research chief economist Devendra Kumar Pant said the data showed weak global demand due to the pandemic. He added that this was the biggest drop in the last six years “at least”.