Before independence, the number of goods included in our imports and exports were limited. But after independence this number has increased considerably. The number of commodities being traded in India’s foreign trade are now nearly 6700. Moreover, we witness some important changes , the composition of India’s foreign trade.
Main Items of Imports
Before independence India was importing mainly consumer goods manufactured in the British industries, such as, medicine, cloths, electric goods, steel etc. It was a sort of forced import on her. But now India is importing goods with a view to her developmental needs. Items of India’s imports can be grouped broadly into three categories.
(a) Capital Goods. Machinery, manufactures of metals, transport equipment etc.
(b) Raw Materials and intermediate Goods. High fibre cotton, raw jute, chemicals, petroleum and lubricants, fertilisers etc.
(c) Consumption Goods. Cereals and cereal preparations, electric goods, medicines, cloth, paper etc.
In the post-independence era, the major items of India’s imports are: cereals and cereal preparations, cashewnuts, crude rubber, raw cotton, raw jute, edible oils, petroleum oil and lubricants, fertilisers and chemical products, iron and steel, non-ferrous metals, manufactures of metals and machinery, pearls and precious stones, paper and paper board etc.
When we look at the whole plan-period we find that the imports of some commodities have fallen while others have risen. Just after independence we were forced to import cereals and cereal preparations in order to solve our food problems. But after some time our food grains production has sufficiently risen. India became almost self-sufficient in the field of wheat and rice, especially after green revolution. Consequently the imports of cereals have been reduced. Similarly, with the increase in the production of cotton, its import has also come down. On the other, commodities whose imports were increased tremendously are petrol and petroleum-products, fertilisers, chemicals, metal products and machinery, pearls and precious stones etc. This change in the composition of imports indicates the process of economic development and industrialization in the country. It reveals that India’s imports have primarily increased because of her developmental needs. However, in spite of this, there are some items in our imports whose imports can be and should be curtailed. For this we have to increase country’s productive capacity and the use of indigenous goods. In 1950-51 India’s total imports were of Rs. 608 crores which-increased to Rs. 139000 crores in 1996-97. Thus in 1996-97 in comparison to 1950-51 our imports have become 228 times.
Main Items of Exports
Before independence the main items of India’s exports were raw materials and agricultural products for the use of industries of England, But after independence, the composition of India’s export has, remarkably, changed. Now we are exporting various types of manufacturing and engineering goods also. Items of India’s exports can be grouped, broadly into four categories:
(a) Agricultural and Allied Products. Tea, coffee cashew kernels, spices, raw jute, tobacco, fish and fish preparations, rice, oil cakes,fruits and vegetables etc.
(b) Ores and Minerals. Manganese, mica, iron ore etc.
(c) Manufactured Goods. Textile fabric manufactures, chemical and allied products, jute manufactures, leather and leather manufactures handicrafts etc.
(d) Mineral Fuels and Lubricants
Thus, after independence India’s major exports have been Tea, coffee, cashew kernels, vegetable oil, oil cakes, spices, raw cotton, rice, iron ore, manganese ore, mica, coal, crude mineral oil, sugar, textile fabric, jute manufactures, leather and leather manufactures, readymade garments, iron and steel, machinery and transport equipments, gems, jewellery and precious stones etc.
The major changes in the composition of India’s export during the plan-period are:
(a) In the beginning traditional goods (such as, Tea, Coffee, Tobacco, Cotton, Textile, Jute manufactures etc.) had a dominant place in India’s exports but now the export of non-traditional goods are steadily increasing.
(b) India has traditionally been an exporter of agricultural and allied products. Their shares have gradually declined. On the other side the exports of manufactured goods and engineering goods are increasing.
(c) In agricultural goods, the exports of coffee, cashew kernels, oil cakes, fish and fish preparations have increased substantially while the exports of tea, spice and tobacco have only increased marginally.
(d) The goods whose exports have increased substantially over the years and also have tremendous export potential for the future are leather, transport equipments and other engineering goods, gems, jewellery and precious stones.
(e) The total number of export goods have also substantially increased. It is a good sign.
In 1950-51 India’s total exports were of Rs. 606 crores which has been increased to Rs. 118800 crores in 1996-97. Thus during this period our exports have become more than 196 times. Thus, in brief, the pattern of India’s export indicates that the Indian economy is being diversified.