Exports from special economic zones up 4% to USD 163.69 bn in 2023-24

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New Delhi: Exports from special economic zones (SEZs) rose by over 4 per cent to USD 163.69 billion in 2023-24 even though the country's total shipments dipped by more than 3 per cent in the last fiscal.

According to the data of the commerce ministry, exports from these zones stood at USD 157.24 billion in 2022-23 and USD 133 billion in 2021-22.

SEZs are key export hubs which contributed over one-third of the country's total outbound shipments in the last fiscal.

SEZs are enclosures that are treated as foreign territories for trade and customs duties, with restrictions on duty-free sales outside these zones in the domestic market.

As many as 423 such zones have been approved by the government, out of which 280 are operational as of March 31 this year. As many as 5,711 units are approved in these zones till December 31, 2023.

The data also showed that as on December 31, 2023, over Rs 6.92 lakh crore have been invested in these zones and a total of 30.70 lakh people are employed there.

The major export destinations include the United Arab Emirates, the US, the UK, Australia and Singapore.

To give a push to these zones, the government is considering several measures such as a flexible framework for the sale of products manufactured in SEZs in the domestic market, and streamlining approval processes for units.

In a report, think tank Global Trade Research Initiative (GTRI) suggested the government allow the sale of products manufactured in SEZs in the domestic market on payment of duty foregone on inputs as that would help promote value addition.

At present, units in SEZs are allowed to sell their products in DTA on payment of duties on an output basis (finished goods).

SEZs being set up under the SEZ Act, 2005 and SEZ Rule, 2006 are primarily private investment driven. Post enactment of SEZ Act, 2005 the Centre has not set up any SEZ in the country.

The maximum number of operational SEZs are in states, including Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala and Uttar Pradesh.

The country's merchandise exports dipped by 3.11 per cent to USD 437 billion in 2023-24. Imports too dipped by over 8 per cent to USD 677.24 billion.