MUMBAI (Commodity Online):  According to World Gold Council (WGC) figures, India has retained its position as world's largest gold consumer in the first quarter owing to a 49 percent recovery in demand, thanks to peak wedding and festival season. Gold imports stood at 739 tonnes during the period April 2009 - March 2010.

India is the largest importer and consumer of gold in the world. The total gold import during January rose to a three-month high at 37 tonnes as compared with 27 tonnes in December and 30 tonnes in November 2009. In October it was recorded at 48 tonnes on occasional demand from retail jewellers.

India imported 343 metric tons of gold in 2009, which is 18 percent less than the country imported in 2008. The fall in gold imports in 2009 led to an increase in scrap sales that touched around 200 tonnes last year.

The consumer demand trends for individual countries for 2009 show that India is still the top consumer, thanks to a 57 percent consumption growth (76 percent growth in jewellery demand alone) in the fourth quarter. China was the only gold jewellery market to grow 6 percent in 2009, according to the figures compiled by WGC.

Though the annual gold consumption in India has come down from level 850 to 900 tonnes, 20 percent of the world gold is still consumed by the nation. It is estimated that 85-90 percent of gold and gold jewellery demand in the country is domestically-driven and remaining 10-15 percent is export-led.

WGC's figures also show that demand for gold in the third quarter ending September 2009 was down 34 percent from the corresponding quarter last year. The demand went down to 137.6 tonnes as against 271.2 tonnes. However, in Q3, the demand was stronger than Q2.