A big drop in China trade statistics has brought fresh worries over the country’s economic wellbeing.

In March 2015, imports fell by 12.3% while exports were down 14.6%, compared with the previous year. This is well below the expected 12% rise in exports analysts had predicted for the month. China’s monthly trade surplus was US$3.1bn in March, well below the predicted US$45.4bn.

It compounds a miserable couple of months for Chinese trade. In February, exports fell by 20.5%, year on year.

The data comes a matter of weeks after the Chinese Deputy Prime Minister urged “preferential policy support” in a bid to boost exports, and analysts are now forecasting further stimulus packages to be announced by Beijing.

Many are also warning that increased volatility lies ahead, as the Chinese government tries to manage its economic adjustment, moving from an investment-led model to one spurred by domestic consumption. Beijing has, however, had to intervene on a number of occasions now with new stimulus as a means of ensuring growth stays above 7%.

“There are reasons to think that exports will struggle in 2015. These include a faltering first-quarter performance in the US, and the recent strengthening of the renminbi against other major currencies, which has effectively raised the price of Chinese goods in foreign markets,” Tom Rafferty of the Economist Intelligence Unit tells GTR.

However, it’s also thought that there may have been seasonal reasons to partly explain the collapse, namely the Chinese New Year celebration. A better indicator of the overall health may be the 4.6% rise in exports for the first quarter of the year, with exporters ratcheting up production ahead of the holiday.

“Exports were weak across the board, with shipments to the US, Europe and to other emerging economies all slumping. This suggests either that there has been a simultaneous slump in demand around the world, or that something is going on in China that caused shipments to slow. The latter is more plausible. Part of the explanation may lie in the fact that the Chinese New Year break fell unusually late in February this year. Some exporters may still have not been running at full speed early in March,” says Mark Williams of Capital Economics.

The slowing in imports looks to be more systemic: despite the government’s efforts to stimulate domestic demand, it is falling. Construction is down, with the property boom looking to have ended. Thus, demand for commodities has fallen significantly, while the falling price of oil and iron ore has also led to a decrease in overall import value.

Many analysts are now forecasting that official data will show GDP growth of under 7% for the first quarter of 2015, meaning the Chinese government will have missed the target laid out in its much-vaunted five-year plan.