India imported US$368 billion worth of goods from around the globe in 2020, up by 3.2% since 2016 but down by -23.2% from 2019 to 2020.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2020 on a Purchasing Power Parity basis, the Indian rupee dropped by -7.3% against the US dollar since 2016 and depreciated by -0.3% from 2019 to 2020. India’s weaker local currency makes India’s imports paid for in stronger US dollars in 2020 relatively more expensive when converted starting from Indian rupees.
From a continental perspective, 62% of India’s total imports by value in 2020 were purchased from fellow Asian countries. European trade partners supplied 15.9% of import purchased by India while 8.8% worth originated from North America with another 7.5% coming from exporters in Africa. Smaller percentages arrived in India from Latin America (3.7%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, and Oceania (2.1%) led by Australia.
Given India’s population of 1.379 billion people, its total $368 billion spent on 2020 imports translates to roughly $270 in yearly product demand from every person living in the vast South Asian country.
India’s Top 10 Imports
The following product groups represent the highest dollar value in India’s import purchases during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each product category represents in terms of overall imports into India.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$104.4 billion (28.4% of total imports)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $42.9 billion (11.7%)
- Gems, precious metals: $41 billion (11.2%)
- Machinery including computers: $35.2 billion (9.6%)
- Organic chemicals: $18.2 billion (4.9%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $12 billion (3.3%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $10.6 billion (2.9%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $8.2 billion (2.2%)
- Iron, steel: $7.6 billion (2.1%)
- Fertilizers: $7.2 billion (2%)
India’s top 10 imports accounted for almost four-fifths (78.1%) of the overall value of its product purchases from other countries.
Imported animal or vegetable fats, oils and waxes posted the sole increase in value among India’s top 10 import categories, up 7.8% from 2019 to 2020.
Leading the declining product categories were iron or steel (down -36%), mineral fuels including oil (down -31.6%) and gems and precious metals (down -30.3%).
Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more detailed view of imported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the adjacent folder tabs labeled by product group.
In 2020, Indian importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of mineral fuels-related products.
- Crude oil: US$64.6 billion (down -36.7% from 2019)
- Coal, solid fuels made from coal: $15.9 billion (down -29.8%)
- Petroleum gases: $15.2 billion (down -11.6%)
- Processed petroleum oils: $5.9 billion (down -12%)
- Petroleum oil residues: $1.6 billion (down -34.4%)
- Coke, semi-coke: $625 million (down -40.5%)
- Coal tar oils (high temperature distillation): $382.8 million (down -17.3%)
- Petroleum jelly, mineral waxes: $101.4 million (down -12.2%)
- Tar pitch, coke: $14.2 million (down -62.5%)
- Natural bitumen, asphalt, shale: $2.6 million (up 6.1%)
Among these import subcategories, Indian purchases of natural bitumen, asphalt and shale was the sole product category to increase via a 6.1% gain from 2019 to 2020.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imports related to mineral fuels among Indian businesses and consumers.
In 2020, Indian importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of electric items including consumer electronics.
- Phone system devices including smartphones: US$12.7 billion (down -6% from 2019)
- Integrated circuits/microassemblies: $8.4 billion (down -17.2%)
- Solar power diodes/semi-conductors: $2.2 billion (down -32.2%)
- TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras: $1.9 billion (down -10.7%)
- Electrical converters/power units: $1.9 billion (down -14.1%)
- TV/radio/radar device parts: $1.8 billion (up 20.4%)
- Lower-voltage switches, fuses: $1.4 billion (down -8.3%)
- Electric storage batteries: $1.4 billion (down -18.2%)
- TV receivers/monitors/projectors: $1 billion (down -48.8%)
- Microphones/headphones/amps: $927.4 million (down -14.2%)
Among these import subcategories, only India’s purchases of TV radio and radar device parts increased from 2019 to 2020 via a 20.4% gain.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported organic chemicals among Indian businesses and consumers.
In 2020, Indian importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of gems and precious metals.
- Gold (unwrought): US$21.9 billion (down -29.7% from 2019)
- Diamonds (unmounted/unset): $15.9 billion (down -27.9%)
- Silver (unwrought): $1.2 billion (down -59.3%)
- Synthetic precious stones: $543.8 million (up 13.2%)
- Platinum (unwrought): $520.2 million (up 85.3%)
- Precious/semi-precious stones (unstrung): $493.3 million (down -59.9%)
- Jewelry: $345.4 million (down -43.6%)
- Precious metal waste, scrap: $66.6 million (up 598.6%)
- Precious stone dust, powder: $23.9 million (down -8.5%)
- Imitation jewelry: $19.9 million (down -50.8%)
Among these import subcategories, Indian purchases of precious metal waste and scrap(up 598.6%), unwrought platinum (up 85.3%) and synthetic precious stones (up 13.2%) grew from 2019 to 2020.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported gems and precious metals among Indian businesses and consumers.
In 2020, Indian importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of machinery including computers.
- Computers, optical readers: US$7.3 billion (up 7.5% from 2019)
- Turbo-jets: $2.2 billion (down -48.5%)
- Miscellaneous machinery: $1.7 billion (down -21.3%)
- Air or vacuum pumps: $1.6 billion (down -16%)
- Computer parts, accessories: $1.4 billion (down -10%)
- Taps, valves, similar appliances: $1.2 billion (down -15.2%)
- Centrifuges, filters and purifiers: $1.1 billion (up 1%)
- Machinery parts: $1 billion (down -22.8%)
- Transmission shafts, gears, clutches: $956.3 million (down -20.3%)
- Printing machinery: $918.3 million (down -34.1%)
Among these import subcategories, Indian purchases of computers including optical readers (up 7.5%) and centrifuges, filters and purifiers (up 1%) grew from 2019 to 2020.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported machinery among Indian businesses and consumers.
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on May 19, 2021
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on May 19, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on May 19, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on May 19, 2021