India's February iron-ore exports surged from a year earlier, but the industry is not confident such growth can be sustained given recessions in much of the world and volatile demand from major customer China.

Exports rose 16.8 percent to 12.63 million tonnes in February from 10.81 million tonnes a year earlier, the Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (FIMI) said on Friday. In April 2008 to February, the first 11 months of the 2008/09 year, exports were at 91.65 million tonnes, up from 90.48 million tonnes a year earlier, FIMI's provisional data showed.

For April and May, it is fingers crossed, said S.V. Salgaocar, managing director of V.M. Salgaocar & Brother Pvt Ltd, a large Goa-based iron ore miner and exporter.

The uptrend may not be maintained, but there may not be a drastic fall either.

Salgaocar said exports rose mainly due to China's buying of cheaper, low-grade ores from India to blend with the higher-grade ores from Australia and Brazil in their steel plants.

Many in the trade think China's appetite may shrink again, with the recession in developed countries too deep to warrant any big demand for steel, and that is a big swing factor for exports.

FIMI data showed exports of iron ore slumped an annual 23 percent in August last year when demand from China, India's biggest customer, dried up as many mills closed for the Olympics.

Exports shot up by 38 percent in December and have remained strong as China built up inventories ahead of annual negotiations between steel mills and iron ore suppliers to set benchmark prices in this month, but could fall once negotiations are done. (Editing by John Mair)

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