New Delhi: India’s gold jewellery imports surged 10% to 696.44 crore in the first quarter of this fiscal as high premium on the yellow metal following tough import norms forced traders to get finished jewellery from abroad, an industry body Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) said.

However, import of gold bars declined marginally by 3.32% to 8,261.88 crore in the April-June period of 2014-15, it said.

“Gold jewellery imports rose in Q1 because the premium on gold in the domestic market was very high during April-May in the wake of import curbs. Importing gold jewellery was more viable at that time," GJEPC senior official Kunal Joshi told PTI.

But the import volumes have declined in June as compared to the previous months and shipments are expected to further drop as premium on gold in the domestic market has come down after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) relaxed import norms in May-end, he said.

Currently, the premium on gold has come down to 1 per gram of gold from 200 per gram in April, another GJEPC official said.

On the contrary, GJPEC said import of gold bars fell by 3.32 per cent to 8,261.88 crore in first quarter of this fiscal compared to 8,545.73 crore in the year-ago.

Joshi said: “Gold bar imports fell as the 20:80 rule on gold imports was effective this year. Under this rule, it was mandatory to re-export 20 per cent of all bullion imports." However, gold bar shipments are expected to surge in July with the easing of gold import norms, he added.

On 21 May, the Reserve Bank had relaxed gold import norms by allowing select trading houses, in addition to already permitted banks, to procure the precious metal to boost exports.

RBI in July last year had imposed severe restrictions on gold imports in order to check burgeoning current account deficit and sliding rupee.

India is the world’s largest importer of gold and biggest consumer of gold jewellery.

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