India has overtaken the United States of America (USA) to become Nigeria's major export trading partner, according to the First Quarter 2012 Trade Statistics released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
It came as the Indian government yesterday expressed interest in higher volumes of term contracts of crude oil supplies with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The NBS report, which put the total value of the nation's exports in Q1 2012 at about N4.9 trillion, showed that total value of exports to India reached N688.5 billion compared to N607.7 billion credited to the US in the period under review.
The US was trailed by the Netherlands with N482.1 billion followed by Spain with N390.4 billion and Brazil which recorded N328.9 billion.
The relegation of the US to the second position is seen as a major development for Nigeria and India trade relations given that the US had remained the former's biggest trading partner since 1964.
However, the N4.9 trillion total export mark for the country in Q1 represented a decrease of about N2.1 trillion or 30.3 per cent over the figure in the preceding quarter.
The report blamed the decline in value of exports on decrease in the value of Non-crude oil exports (especially Products of the Chemical and Allied industries; Plastic, Rubber and Articles, wood and textile among others.
Reacting to the new trend in bilateral trade, Indian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Mahesh Sachdev, told THISDAY in an exclusive interview Thursday that India was determined to hold on to its new position for as long as it could.
He said: "India's arrival as the largest market for Nigerian exports does not come as a surprise as India has been Nigeria's second largest market for many years. Given steady increase in our demand for Nigerian exports, India is likely to maintain this pole position in the foreseeable future."
But in terms of balance of trade between India and Nigeria, the report indicated a trade deficit of N575 billion against the former within the period. This means that India was buying a lot more than Nigeria currently does from India.
According to him: "This figure of over 3.5 billion is obviously too high to be sustainable."
He argued that to maintain the current momentum of growth, both countries must ensure that more Indian products were imported into Nigeria.
The Indian High Commissioner said the surge in Nigerian exports to India had been aided by the openness and transparency of the Indian market to Nigerian products urged the Nigerian side to also ensure that Indian goods and services received similar embrace in the country.
This, according to him, could only be achieved by ensuring level playing ground, transparency, proper customs treatment as well as steps to curb faking and counterfeiting of Indian products.
He said:"During the Q1/2012, Indian exports increased by nearly 4 per cent over previous quarter. In recent weeks, India has permitted global unrestricted exports of agricultural products such as Wheat, rice, sugar, milk powder, etc-which are needed by Nigeria. We hope that Nigerian stakeholders would take steps to source these items from India as this would promote a more balanced bilateral trade."
Meanwhile, Sachdev maintained that expanding the volumes of term contract of supplies with NNPC would reduce India's current huge reliance on spot market purchases of various Nigerian crude adding that "If this is done, it would help engender greater stability to Nigerian crude exports to India, already their largest buyer."
The report further noted that: "Classification of the value of total Exports by region revealed that Europe lead in regional contribution to total exports with N1,816.8 billion or 36.6%,
by the Americas with N1,385.0 billion or 27.9%, and Asia with N1,113.9billion or 22.4%. Exports to African countries amounted to N535.0 billion or 10.8% of total exports with ECOWAS Countries contributing N246.7 billion or 46.1% of this amount."
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