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India's gold imports rose by 71.52 per cent to USD 3.39 billion in December because of weak global prices and higher domestic demand.

According to the commerce ministry's data released today, silver imports too rose by 106 per cent to USD 197.26 million last month as against USD 95.84 million in December 2016.

Gold imports by India, the world's second-biggest consumer of gold, stood at USD 3.39 billion in December 2017 as against USD 1.97 billion a year ago.

Industry experts have attributed the surge in gold imports to lower global prices which ranged between USD 1,250 and USD 1,260 per ounce coupled with a robust local demand.

Many traders imported more gold taking advantage of the duty-free buying, while some booked deals apprehensive that the import duty may be tweaked in the forthcoming Budget, they added.

The ministry's data further showed that export of gems and jewellery rose marginally by 2.38 per cent to USD 3.23 billion from USD 3.15 billion in the said period.

Global gold prices have however surged in the last few weeks by USD 100 to Rs 1,343 per ounce on the London Stock Exchange.

The country imports 700-800 tonnes gold annually.

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