India's readymade garment industry saw exports decline by nearly 4% in fiscal year 2018 – the first year of implementation of the goods and service tax – new figures show.

The data, published by India's Business Standard, show RMG exports fell from US$17.4bn in 2017 to $16.7bn last year, representing a 3.8% decline. In rupee terms, exports were down 7.6%.

Business Insider cited a continual month-on-month decline in dollar terms, beginning from a 39.3% fall in October 2017 and ending at 17.8% in March 2018. In the latter month alone, India's RMG export was $1.49bn, against $1.81bn for the corresponding month last year.

HKL Magu, chairman of the Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC), told the publication the figures show apparel exports are not only stagnating but heading towards recession – a "big cause of concern."

The implementation of the GST in July last year – touted as a major economic reform of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Government – resulted in a blockage of funds for the export community, while other export incentives such as duty drawback and rebate on state levies (ROSL) were reduced.

The executives also complain that India is competing against nations that have free trade agreements (FTAs) with key markets like Europe, the UK, and the US. Bangladesh, the world's second largest apparel exporters after China, has duty-free access to the EU market. Vietnam, meanwhile, remains the fastest-growing among large apparel-exporting nations.