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US to talk trade deal with India before Donald Trump's visit

Jan 29, 2020

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will be in India in the second week of February to finalize a trade deal ahead of President Donald Trump’s expected visit, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
 
India is keen to sign an agreement during Trump’s visit and trade minister Piyush Goyal has invited Lighthizer to discuss the details of a possible pact that has been stalled since before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s US visit in September. India expects to sign deals to raise its defense and energy purchases from the US during the president’s visit, said the people asking not to be identified citing rules.
 
Trump’s visit may come in the midst of an impeachment trial that is currently underway in Washington. A long lineup of witnesses is likely to drag the trial over weeks or months.
 
New Delhi and Washington are still working out the contours of a possible deal and the Indian side has indicated its willingness to ease pricing caps on medical equipment. The US in turn may consider at least partially restoring an exception that had allowed India duty-free exports of about 2,000 products until last year, one of the people said.
    
Source: Live Mint



Time for new policy for potato sub-sector: PM

Jan 29, 2020

In a bid to achieve a larger goal of hunger and poverty eradication, the government wants to consider new policy with specific research agenda to promote potato sub-sector, which includes seeds to market value-chain.
 
In his video address to the three-day 3rd Global Potato Conclave at Mahatma Mandir here, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated that considering the utility of potato crop in a variety of food products, 'it is time we encouraged potato sub-sector with the new policy and a research agenda. At the root of this policy and research agenda should be the fight against hunger and poverty with a goal to secure global food security.'
 
The Prime Minister also stated that scientists need to be encouraged to use modern technology such as biotechnology, artificial intelligence, blockchain, and drone technology among others for various issues faced in agriculture.
 
The earlier two editions of Global Potato Conclaves were held in Delhi in 1999 and 2008. Underlining the significance of the 2020 Conclave being held in Gujarat, the Prime Minister stated that while the area under potato cultivation increased by about 20 per cent in India in the last 11 years, it has increased by about 170 per cent in Gujarat during the same period.
    
Source: Business Line



States asked to set up PSFs to combat price volatility

Jan 29, 2020

The Centre has asked states to set up their own state-level price stabilisation funds (PSFs) to deal with price volatility of important agri-horticultural commodities such as onion, potato and pulses. It will provide financial assistance for such funds, which can be used for maintaining buffer stocks of price sensitive commodities by buying directly from farmers.
 
'The funds may be used for import also to moderate price volatility. The recent spike in onion prices has increased the need for such funds at state level also to contain prices during shortage of a commodity,' said a senior consumer affairs ministry official, who did not wish to be identified. The Centre had set up a PSF in 2014-15 which is being utilised primarily for building buffer stocks of pulses and onion, and funding state agencies for the domestic purchase and import of commodities.
 
'We have also given financial assistance to state governments such as those of West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana for setting state level PSFs,' said the official. Andhra Pradesh recently announced a minimum support price (MSP) for red chillies, turmeric, onion and minor millets for the state farmers. These crops are not included in the 22 crops for which the central government announces MSP every year.
    
Source: The Economic Times



WTO reform agenda needs to be balanced and inclusive: Piyush Goyal

Jan 29, 2020

The agenda to reform the World Trade Organisation (WTO) needs to be balanced and inclusive to address the historic asymmetries in the Uruguay Round Agreements, India’s trade minister Piyush Goyal said while participating in an informal ministerial gathering in Davos on 24 January.
 
A statement released by the commerce ministry on Tuesday quoted the minister saying a good starting point for the reform agenda would be removing the imbalances in the agreement on agriculture, and ensuring a level playing field, particularly for developing economies. 'As long-standing proponents of WTO reform, developing countries have for almost 20 years sought the elimination of unequal and trade-distorting entitlements in the agreement on agriculture. Another positive step will be to build upon the work of the last several years and to implement existing mandates such as a permanent solution for public stock holding for food security purposes. This will help in enhancing the trust of developing countries in the WTO’s negotiating arm,' he added.
 
Goyal said the reform process should not be used to further restrict the flexibilities and policy space required by developing countries to integrate better with the global trading system. 'It should open more opportunities for them, taking into account the contrasting levels of prosperity, unequal levels of economic development, and vast disparity in human development indicators, so that global trade becomes sustainable,' he added.
    
Source: Live Mint



Disease-resistant variant to boost tomato cultivation

Jan 29, 2020

A new disease-resistant tomato hybrid ‘Arka Rakshak’ is set to bring a smile to farmers’ faces. Developed by the Indian institute of horticulture research (IIHR) in a bid to achieve high yields and resist diseases like tomato leaf curl virus bacterial wilt and early blight, the variant’s seeds have already been distributed among farmers in North Goa. 
 
'Tomato seedlings are often plagued with the problem of wilting, due to which farmers are reluctant to grow tomatoes. However, this particular variety developed by the IIHR is resistant to wilt,' said Dilip Paranjape, project director, Agriculture Technology Management Agency’s (ATMA), North Goa. 
 
'It has not wilted after farmers grew it in Goa last year. It has proven a hardy variety, therefore,' he said. 
 
Last year, there was a yield of 200kg of tomatoes from a patch measuring 25sqm— it showed that a single plant could produce 11kg of tomatoes. The overall production went up to a few tons. 
    
Source: The Times Of India



5 trillion dollar economy is doable, says NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant

Jan 29, 2020

NITI Aayog's Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Amitabh Kant has said that despite a tough task, '5 trillion dollar economy' is achievable.
 
While speaking at an event on 'Mainstreaming Innovation towards 5 Trillion dollar Economy' organised jointly by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of Rajasthan and CUTS International, on Saturday in Jaipur, he said, 'India becoming a US 5 trillion dollar economy by 2015, though a tough ask, is very much doable.'
 
According to him, for achieving the said national target, India would need to grow at 12.4 per cent, in nominal terms or 8.4 per cent in real terms, which can be attained provided that states would have to play a critical role.
 
Since, wealth is largely created by the private sector, therefore along with the central government, States would also have to facilitate the Ease of Doing Business, (EODB) according to Kant.
 
He cited examples of backward states like Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh showing great improvements on this front in recent years.
 
Pradeep S Mehta, Secretary General of CUTS International, moderating the session, flagged the importance of setting target like that of 5 trillion economy, and building up a positive narrative in order to achieve the same.
    
Source: KNN India



Gujarat drives India’s french fries export

Jan 29, 2020

Though Gujarat harvests merely 7.42% of the country’s potato production, the state has singularly catapulted India to becoming a french fries exporter from being an importer in just over a decade.
 
ndia used to import 6,000 metric tonnes of french fries in 2007. However, the country managed to export around 30,000 metric tonnes (MT) of frozen potatoes in 2019 with fries accounting for 95% of the total exports.
 
'India started exporting french fries in 2015 with annual exports standing at 5,000 MT. Gujarat has been the key driver of frozen potato products exports from India because the state houses the processing plants of three companies – McCain Foods, Iscon Balaji Foods and HyFun Foods – which produce frozen potato products and export them,' said Haresh Karamchandani, chief executive officer, HyFun Foods. 
 
The three firms, which are leading exporters, are also major suppliers to prominent burger quick serve restaurant (QSR) chains within India. 
    
Source: The Times Of India



Country set for record rabi cereal harvest: Report

Jan 29, 2020

Extremely good rainfall received during the monsoon period and subsequent months will help the country to harvest a record 110 million tonnes (mt) or more of wheat, according to projections by two different private agencies.
 
While the firms —private weather forecaster Skymet Weather Services and National Collateral Management Services Ltd (NCML) – projected that wheat output would be much higher than the 102.19 mt projected for 2018-19 in the 4th advance estimates, their assessments differed on two major rabi crops—Bengal gram and mustard. While Skymet said the output of both the commodities would higher than that in the last year, NCML’s projections were contrary to it.
 
Rabi crops account for nearly 50 per cent of India's total foodgrain production.
 
According to the first rabi projections released by Skymet on Tuesday, gram production would be 10.66 mt as against previous year's 10.13 mt, but NCML, which is a post-harvest management firm, saw the output falling to 9.58 mt. Similarly, Skymet estimated the output of mustard and rapeseed to be 9.46 mt, marginally higher than 9.34 mt last year, but NCML projected it to be 8.58 mt.
    
Source: Business Line



Inter-Ministerial group to fix licensing norms for refined palm oil import

Jan 29, 2020

To enable shipments of refined palm oil to come in from countries such as Nepal and Indonesia following the government’s decision to place the commodity in the restricted import list, the Centre is working on licensing norms for its imports.
 
'An inter-Ministerial group comprising senior officials from Ministries and Departments including Food and Consumer Affairs will decide on the licensing norms. They will try to ensure that exporters from countries such as Nepal and Indonesia are not unnecessarily hassled,' a government official said.
 
The Centre, however, needs to act fast on the matter as delay in firming up the licensing procedures could fuel an increase in prices of edible oil in the domestic market due to a shortfall in import of refined palm oil and an increase in import prices of crude palm oil, the official added.
 
Earlier this month, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), under the Commerce & Industry Ministry, restricted the import of refined palm oil into the country. Although the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had clarified that the restriction was not country specific, the decision has been largely viewed as a move to punish Malaysia, whose Prime Minister has been criticising India for its policy on Kashmir and the Constitution Amendment Act.
    
Source: Business Line



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