‘Working to minimise trade data revisions ’

Commerce Ministry official says shipment data from remote locations often delayed when computing quick estimates; both export, import figures have seen sharp revisions in several months of this fiscal year; official says working to obviate need for updates so as to improve accuracy to 99.99%

The Commerce Ministry attributed the sharp revisions in foreign trade data over the past year to challenges in getting timely data from all ports of entry, along with other issues, and said efforts were underway to minimise revisions so that the export, import numbers released every month were 99.99% accurate.

In six of the eight months between June 2022 and January 2023, India’s goods exports have been revised upwards by more than $2 billion from the quick estimates released by the Commerce and Industry Ministry in the subsequent month. Over the same period, merchandise import numbers have been revised by an average of $2.2 billion, with the import bill lowered significantly in four months.

The scale of export revisions shot up between November and January, averaging an upgrade of $3.1 billion or almost 10% of the quick estimates for the period. The highest export revision so far this year was for December at $3.6 billion, while the import bill saw the biggest update for September when it was pared by $3.5 billion.

“There are challenges with how we crunch the data, when it is available and what sources are available,” a senior ministry official said in response to a query from The Hindu. “For what we call the quick estimates, the full data from all locations, including remote locations is not received yet. But we give the estimates to see the trends,” the official added.

“As and when we receive from all locations, there are revisions done based on those. As we modernise our systems, have greater digital data captured everywhere... our endeavour is to try and reduce [revisions] as much as possible,” he explained.

Last year, the ministry had stopped releasing preliminary trade estimates early in a month as there were sharp revisions in the quick estimates released a couple of weeks later.

“We thought we will not have revisions after that. We are still having them and the transition is happening. By 15th of every month, we should have relatively data indicating 99.99% of the trade.. those small aberrations will be there whenever amendments happen to import and export transactions,” he noted, stressing that revisions were a routine part of statistical systems around the world.

Another official said that recent data revisions were only being noticed because of the scale of changes.