KARACHI - With the rising oil prices and surge in the food items imports, the trade deficit of the country is expected to exceed 20 billion dollars in the current financial year, The Nation learnt on Friday. The import bill of wheat and palm oil recorded highest-ever increase due to domestic shortage and rise in their prices in the international market. It would pressure the foreign reserves of the country however; the imports of wheat and cotton are necessitated due to domestic shortages. From July-March FY08 the trade deficit had soared to $14.486 billion, which is $4.44 billion more than last year's deficit. Keeping in view over 1.5 billion dollars monthly trade deficit , it can be said that the total trade deficit is being seen above 20 billion dollars in 2007-08, said sources. In the month of March 2008 the trade deficit had settled at 2.036 billion dollars because of growing wheat imports and rising oil prices. Official statistics released by the FBS showed $27.96 billion imports, against $13.47b exports, during July-March period, with a trade deficit of $2.036b in March 2008 alone. Exports were merely $1.76b in March, against imports of $3.823b. Exports showed a marginal growth of 14.89 percent in March over February, showing an increase from $1.554b of February to $1.786 billion in March. Imports increased by 4.48 percent, from $3.659b in February to $3.823 billion in March. The trade deficit surged from $1.099 billion in March 2007 to $2.036 billion in March 2008. The figures showed that imports increased by 24.73 percent in July-March 2008 over the same period of last year, going up from $22.47 billion in March 2007 to $27.962 billion in March 2008 while exports rose by 8.87pc from $12.377b to $13.47b. Economists are of the views that at the same time, high international oil prices and wheat imports together with strong import demand would keep the pressure on the import bill in the near future as with no decline in oil subsidy, fiscal deficit is likely to exceed 4.5 percent of GDP in FY08. SBP has also projected current account deficit to be around 6.0 percent of GDP during FY08 reflecting the rising imports growth (led by rising commodity prices) and slow growth in textile exports.   The impact of the higher international commodity prices and strong domestic demand is also reflected in the deteriorating external imbalances during FY08. As the Ministry of Finance plans to offer GDR and international bonds in last quarter of FY08, it may help the new government to contain the alarming growth in the current account imbalance. If the govt could not float bonds and global depository receipts the current account deficit may settle over $12b in FY08 as against $6.87b CAD in FY07. Owing to the current direction of foreign trade, the official export target of $19.2 billion seems unachievable as textile exports could not picked up momentum instead of getting subsidiaries as well as food inflation sky rocketed  during the period under review.    Due to rising oil bill, it is projected that the import bill may cross the figure of $36 billion by the end of June 2008. Last year the import bill was around $30 billion.