Exports between April and February fell 4 per cent year-on-year to $265.95 billion. Oil imports for the month rose about 15.5 per cent from the corresponding period a year ago.
The data will likely have a positive effect on the rupee as the market was expecting a near $17-19 billion deficit.
Trade deficit in February is typically lower due to seasonal factors.
Commerce Secretary S.R. Rao said the deficit is lower due to a pick-up in exports, adding that the government is taking measures to help push up exports.
India posted its second-highest ever monthly trade deficit of $20 billion in January as imports surged to record highs, piling pressure on a widening current account deficit and limiting the scope for the Reserve Bank of India to cut interest rates.
Exports rose an annual 0.8 per cent to $25.59 billion in January, the first time since the start of the fiscal year in April last year, on the back of better sales of engineering goods, drugs and gems. But imports rose 6 per cent to $45.58 billion, their highest ever monthly total. Imports of oil, the single biggest item, rose 6.9 per cent from a year ago to $15.9 billion.
The January trade deficit was the second worst on record. The worst figure was $21.9 billion posted in October.
With inputs from Reuters