Coimbatore: Exports from the services sector, the largest and fastest growing sector in the economy, have recorded a more than six fold increase in the last nine years from 20.76 billion USD in 2002-03 to 131.97 billion USD in 2010-11, a top Service Export Promotion Council official said.

"If this growth rate is sustained, services export can touch the level of merchandise exports in the coming years, even as India's services trade, both export and imports, stood at 216.28 billion in 2010-11," SEPC Director General Rakesh Sharma said at the three-day India Travel and Living Expo (INTRA) and Hotel Suplies Expo here on Saturday.

He said while the balance of trade in merchandise has been negative, it was constantly positive for services. While merchandise reported a deficit of 131 billion USD, services reported about 50 billion USD surplus trade in 2010-11.

Sharma said many exporters were unaware of various schemes offered by the commerce and industry like Market Development Assistance, through which members are eligible to participate in overseas 'buyer’s seller meets,' or in any international conference to showcase their service capability, he said.

Rakesh Sharma said under the Foreign Trade Policy, 2009-14, services exporters with total foreign exchange earnings or earnings in Indian Rupees, otherwise considered as having been paid for in free foreign exchange of at least Rs 10 lakh in this fiscal are eligible to quality for duty credit scrip.

Moreover, service exporters shall be entitled to duty credit equivalent to 10 per cent of the foreign exchange earned by them in the current financial year, he said.

Stating that four awareness programmes are planned in 2011-12 -- one each in North, East, South and Western regions of the country, he said the Western regional programme would give special reference to entertainment and distribution sector, the South to education and maritine transport service sector, East to environmental and health care service sector and North special reference to Hotel and Tourism related service sector.