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Branded foodgrains, flours to attract 5% levy under GST

Sep 21, 2017

The Finance Ministry on Wednesday clarified that all branded cereals, pulses and flours deemed to be a registered brand under any law in the country, including the Copyright Act as on May 15, 2017, will attract Goods and Services Tax at the rate of five per cent.
The GST Council, in its 21st meeting held on September 9, 2017 at Hyderabad has recommended five per cent GST rate on cereals, pulses and flours etc. put in unit container and bearing a registered brand name, said an official statement.
The issue had come up as many manufacturers were de-registering their brand names to avoid the levy.
The Ministry also said that a mark or name on which actionable claim is available shall also be deemed to be a registered brand name.
However, GST will not apply if the concerned person voluntarily foregoes any actionable claim or enforceable right on such brand name after filing an affidavit to the effect with the jurisdictional Commissioner of Central Tax or State Tax, or the jurisdictional officer of Union Territory Tax, as the case may be.
The person will also be expected to print in indelible ink, both in English and local language on each such unit container, that in respect of brand name printed on the unit containers he has voluntarily foregone his actionable claim or enforceable right, the Ministry said.
Source: The Hindu Business Line

Chabahar Port likely to be operational by end-2018

Sep 21, 2017

Chabahar Port, located in Sistan-Baluchistan province on the south-eastern coast of Iran, is expected to be operational by 2018-end. Iran will soon be sending an application for provision of credit to Exim Bank of India to provide the first tranche of loan from the $150-million credit line that India plans to start. This is required to activate the contract between India and Iran for Chabahar Port.
Iran is important not just strategically but logistically to India, said Nitin Gadkari, Minister for Road Transport & Highways, Shipping and Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation.
Speaking at a conference here on Wednesday, Gadkari said the rail link could be started using the Shipping Ministry’s Indian Port Rail Connectivity Ltd if Ircon has concerns.
Using Chabahar, we can go to Russia and further to Europe by road, he said.
We should be receiving the application in a few days, which will enable releasing of first tranche of loan, Alok Srivastav, Special Secretary, Shipping Ministry, said, adding that the port should get operational by December 2018.
The port will also serve as an important transit point for Afghanistan's cargo, said Gadkari.
Next month, there will be a business discussion, inviting various logistics partners not just from India, Afghanistan, Iran, but other global partners to invest in the free trade zone in Chabahar, the Minister added.
Source: The Hindu Business Line

Relief package soon to boost economy: FM to India Inc

Sep 21, 2017

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday hinted at a package of measures to boost the economy, while virtually ruling out any cut in duties on petroleum products to check the spike in fuel prices.
We have taken note of all the economic indicators that are available. This has been a pro-active government on the reforms agenda. Over the last two days, I have had a series of discussions with ministerial colleagues and various secretaries.
The government will take additional measures in the coming days after consulting the Prime Minister. Whenever the measures are taken, you will come to know of it, Jaitley told reporters here following a meeting of the union cabinet.
On Tuesday evening, the Finance Minister chaired a high-level meeting to review the economic situation and discuss measures, including a possible stimulus package, to be taken amidst an economic slowdown.
The meeting was attended by, among others, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu, Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian and Secretaries in the Finance Ministry -- Ashok Lavasa, Subhash Chandra Garg, Hasmukh Adhia, Rajiv Kumar and Neeraj Kumar Gupta.
Originally, the review was to take place with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's participation.
On the current high transport fuel prices, Jaitley said it was a temporary spike in global prices caused by the supply-demand mismatch due to hurricanes that hit the US coast.
Asked about the possibility of a cut in excise duties on petroleum products, he said government needed money for public spending to push growth and for social sector schemes.
States are taking so much tax... earlier under the fortnightly pricing regime, when two years back we lowered fuel prices, states like Delhi, Haryana would immediately raise VAT to earn more money. States under the Left and Congress should take steps to lower cesses, he said.
Referring to opposition about price-rise, Jaitley said the parties which kept quiet when inflation was in double-digits, were now crying when it is at 3.3 percent, which is within the RBI mandate of keeping inflation under 4 percent.
During monsoon, there is normally a spike in vegetable prices and inflation is still at 3.36 percent, he added.
Source: SME Time

Governance among 15 areas identified by FSSAI to transform food sector

Sep 21, 2017

Governance and administration (with a focus on internal capacity building), food standards (with a focus on identifying gaps in local as well as international practices) and the Food Safety and Knowledge Assimilation Network (FSKAN) are among the 15 areas the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has identified in a bid to transform the country’s food industry.
The other areas are registration, licensing and compliance, institutional capacity for food safety in states, food imports, food testing, safe food practices, food safety training, social and behavioural change, consumer connect, promoting a healthy diet, preventing food wastage and managing food loss, promoting hygienic street food and local food culture, technological intervention and global outreach. 
The country’s apex food regulator has done so to give its food safety ecosystem a fillip. In the last fiscal year, the expenditure on internal capacity building was a meagre Rs 19 crore. But this fiscal, it has gone up four times to Rs 76 crore. Work on the FSKAN has commenced with the objective of exchanging scientific knowhow and funding research.
 This was not only to strengthen such efforts as safe and nutritious food for all, but also will lead the way ahead. These key areas to will act as enablers for the convergence of ideas between the consumers and the food business operators (FBOs). Moreover, the aim is to make FBOs self-complaint and harmonise the standards for the food industry, the regulator stated. 
Pawan Kumar Agarwal, chief executive officer, FSSAI, said, We work with multiple stakeholders simultaneously, and therefore, we will be able to keep the focus on the objectives by publishing these key interest areas. This would also be a guiding principle for the stakeholders that these are areas they have to work. So we have identified 15 key areas where we have to work in a significant manner and move ahead.
The FSSAI logo has begun to inspire trust in consumers, and now the main challenge for the regulator is to reinforce this trust and support it with a robust back-end system and processes, he added.
The key elements of such a system would be unambiguous food safety standards based on a methodological risk assessment, good manufacturing practices and good retail practices, reliable food testing facilities, risk-based enforcement and self-compliance, regular surveys into the assessment of a food safety ecosystem, and finally, consumer feedback,Agarwal said. 
Source: FNB News

Tea exports rise 4.58 percent in Jan-Jul

Sep 21, 2017

Tea exports rose by 4.58 percent to 121.13 million kg during the first seven months of 2017 compared with 115.83 million kg in the corresponding period last year, Tea Board of India data said on Wednesday.

In value terms, tea exports increased to Rs 2,363.22 crore during January-July period compared with Rs 2,260.07 crore in the same period last year.

Indian tea exports to Egypt, China, and Sri Lanka witnessed a significant growth.

According to the Tea Board, tea exports to Sri Lanka during the said period was up by 98.23 percent to 4.48 million kg from 2.26 million kg.

Similarly, India exported 4.19 million kg, up by 71 percent, to China during the period while exports to Sri Lanka rose by 150 percent to 2.5 million kg.

India exported 12.52 million kg tea to Iran and 10.01 million kg to the United Arab Emirates during the seven-month period.

Source: SME Time

India-Korea CEPA review in Seoul this week

Sep 21, 2017

India's CEPA with South Korea will be reviewed by the trade ministers of India and Korea in Seoul this week to give a fillip to bilateral trade and investment, said J.K. Dadoo, Additional Secretary & Financial Advisor, Ministry of Commerce & Industry, at 'India-Korea Economic Cooperation Forum', organized in New Delhi by FICCI and KOTRA on Wednesday.
The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) is a free trade agreement between India and South Korea.
Speaking on 'India's Potential in the 4th Generation Industrial Revolution Era: Cooperation in Industry – Investment', Dadoo said that there was a trade deficit against India with Korea enjoying a surplus. This needed to be corrected for a balanced two-way trade. He added that there was immense scope of exploring trade and investment opportunities in new areas for both India and Korea.
Highlighting the various initiatives and programmes undertaken by India and Korea in diverse sectors to strengthen their partnership, Dadoo said that India offers a liberal and transparent policy regime along with a FDI policy, which gives several incentives to investors.
Young Sam Kim, Additional Minister, S. Korea MOTIE, said that in 2016, exports to the India were $ 11.6 billion, up about 50 percent since the signing of the CEPA in 2010. He added that enhanced cooperation in manufacturing and infrastructure was needed while cooperation in new areas should be explored to further boost bilateral ties.
HaeKwang Lee, Chargé d'affaires, Embassy of Republic of Korea, said that there was a need for Korea and India to tap each other’s potential optimally to increase the trade volume. With the Special Strategic Partnership (SSP) in place, the two nations needed to cooperate with a long term vision to have a mutually beneficial partnership. 
Dr. Sanjaya Baru, Secretary General, FICCI, said that today almost every home in India has a Korean product, be it a car or refrigerator or other electronic appliances. This shows that Korean companies have benefitted from India while Indian consumers have enjoyed the advantage of using good products.
Dr. Jaehong Kim, CEO & President, KOTRA, said that Korea with its expertise in electronics and automobiles and India with the edge in software, ICT and R&D could exchange their respective knowledge and capabilities to expand business opportunities and promote economic cooperation. 
Ju Hyun Kim, CEO & President, The Financial News, Korea, said that over the years Korea and India have strengthened their economic relationship by deepening cooperation in diverse sectors. The focus has been on developing Korea-India partnership to create a win-win situation for the two countries.
Source: SME Time

Indian investments into GCC touching $3 billion: Report

Sep 21, 2017

India's share of total investments into the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council has risen from 4.7 per cent in 2011 to 16.2 per cent in 2016, according to a research report. 
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) investments into India also continued to rise from 0.7 per cent in 2011 to 2.95 per cent in 2016, the 'GCC-India Corridor Investment Opportunities and Challenges' report said. 
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) investments into India also continued to rise from 0.7 per cent in 2011 to 2.95 per cent in 2016, the 'GCC-India Corridor Investment Opportunities and Challenges' report said. 
In contrast to the overall decline in total FDI into the GCC, investments from India grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.9 per cent from USD 1.4 billion in 2011 to $2.9 billion in 2016, the report, published by Alpen Capital, an investment banking advisory firm, said.
During the period, India's share of the total investments into the GCC increased substantially from 4.7 per cent to 16.2 per cent, it added.
The report presents the state of economic relations between the GCC and India by analysing the trend in investment flows and the strategic government initiatives to strengthen ties.
It assesses the competitiveness of countries in ease of doing business and further identifies and discusses the potential sectors for cooperation and investment in both the regions.
Source: Economic times

India growing pretty robustly: World Bank chief

Sep 21, 2017

India has been growing pretty robustly, World Bank President Jim Kim has said as he predicted a strong global growth this year.
Speaking at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum meeting here on Wednesday, Kim also called for more cooperation among the multilateral system, private sector and the governments to take advantage of the current win-win situation.
That dormant capital will earn a higher return, where developing countries will have access to much more capital for the infrastructure needs, even for investing in health and education, investing in resilience to climate change and other factors, Kim said.
He said Japan, Europe and the US along with India were growing and there was a levelling-out in developing countries.
A country like India is growing, has been growing pretty robustly. We think Japan is growing. Europe is growing in a much more healthy way. The US continues to grow. There is a levelling-out in developing countries, he said, adding that the growth will be more robust this year.
In June, the World Bank predicted a 7.2 per cent growth rate for India this year against 6.8 per cent growth in 2016.
India remains the fastest growing major economy in the world, the World Bank officials had said.
It used to be that commodity importers were doing much better than commodity exporters. But that’s levelling out. So the growth is relatively more evenly distributed, Kim said.
He said in terms of indebtedness, the bank was watching very carefully the debt-to-GDP ratios of every single country.
In Africa, the debt-to-GDP ratios are still very manageable...We would not be moving toward providing more financing for countries if we thought there was a real problem with over indebtedness in the countries. Because we follow this very closely, along with the IMF, he said.
We think that there are tremendous opportunities for investment. But sometimes, purely based on perception, investors in sovereign wealth funds — I’ve heard them say, Africa is risky. Right, as if Africa was a single country. Africa’s not a single country and the risk profiles from country to country have enormous differences, he said.
Source: The Hindu Business Line

India, Turkmenistan look to expand North-South Transport Corridor

Sep 21, 2017

India and Turkmenistan will explore the possibility of expanding the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) by linking it to the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran rail link.
This was decided at the the 13 th meeting of the India-Kazakhstan Inter-Governmental Commission (IGC). From the Indian side Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas and Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Dharmendra Pradhan led a delegation to Astana, Kazakhstan. Pradhan was the co-chair at the meeting and the Minister of Energy of Republic of Kazakhstan, Kanat Bozumbayev, co-chaired the meeting from Kazakh side.
In an official statement, the government said that INSTC has already become operational by agreeing to conduct a dry run feasibility study on the railway link.
Both sides also agreed to work on application of nuclear science in the areas of health and agriculture. They also agreed to develop and deepen bilateral relations in the field of agriculture, mining and civil aviation sector.
Bozumbayev invited Indian investments in the hydrocarbon sector, infrastructure, peaceful use of nuclear energy, co-production of films, cooperation in food processing and information technology.
At the end of the meeting, both the sides expressed satisfaction on the outcome of the meeting and expressed confidence that it will further strengthen the engagement in all areas of mutual interests. Both Ministers directed their Ministries and Departments to work continuously to accomplish the action points arising out of the meeting.
Source: The Hindu Business Line

Cooperatives should explore new areas to double farm income: Narendra Modi

Sep 21, 2017

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today asked cooperatives to venture into new business areas like beekeeping and seaweed farming to help farmers double their income by 2022 and boost the rural economy. 
Modi also emphasised that the 'cooperative spirit' should be kept alive and strengthened. 
Addressing the birth centenary of Maharashtra-based cooperative leader Laxman Madhav Rao Inamdar, the Prime Minister said: It is natural for the cooperative sector to grow and shine in India. There are several sectors where the cooperative sector can help make a positive difference.
He asked cooperatives to assess how farmers' income can be doubled by 2022 through their movement. 
See what best practices to adopt and give up the old ones and move ahead, he said, while asserting that rural India should not be left behind in the growth path. 
Stating that farmers are facing many problems, Modi said there is a need to establish a system to ensure farmers buy and sell at wholesale rates. 
Today, farmers buy at retail rate and sell (their produce) at wholesale rates. Can it be reversed?. If they buy (inputs) at wholesale rates and sell at retail price, then nobody can loot them, not even middlemen, he said. 
Farmers associated with dairy cooperatives have grown as they buy and sell milk at wholesale rates, Modi said adding that farmers would not have earned more had they sold their produce to private firms. 
Source: Economic times

India, Afghanistan to Hold 4-day Trade Show in Delhi from Sep 27

Sep 21, 2017

India and Afghanistan will hold a mega trade & investment show in Delhi between Sep 27-30 facilitated by the US in the backdrop of Donald Trump's call to the Modi government to expand socio-economic projects for the Afghans. 
The show will feature Afghan entities from agriculture, health, education, and energy sectors seeking trade and investment opportunities with India, according to persons familiar with the matter. CEOs from major Indian companies will also be participating, and thematic panel sessions on relevant topics will be held throughout the event. 
Afghanistan is being assisted by United States Agency for International Development for this trade and investment show aimed at developing stronger India-Afghanistan relations by forging business deals for Afghan products such as produce, spices, carpets and gems and connecting Indian investors with afghan companies and government entities in the education, healthcare, infrastructure, energy and agricultural sectors. 
This comes close on the heels of Indo-Afghan decision to launch New Development Partnership involving 116 new High Impact Development Projects that would be jointly implemented in the suburban and rural communities in 31 provinces of landlocked country. 
However, USA is not the only P-5 nation that India is engaging to safeguard its interest in Afghanistan. Close on the heels of investment meet Russian Presidential Envoy on Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov will visit Delhi in October to take forward PM Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin dialogue in Xiamen on Sep 4 that also focussed on Indo-Russian cooperation to stabilise the landlocked country. Russia has revived its interest in Afghanistan since it pulled out from there in 1989 owing to grow .. 
Source: Economic times

India's edible oil output to hit all-time high of 7.7 mn tonnes in 2017-18

Sep 21, 2017

With the even spread of rainfall in the second half of the current monsoon season raising prospects of better kharif oilseed output, edible oil production in the crushing season 2017-18 is likely to be the highest ever in the country.
Indore-based GGN International, one of India’s largest research firms, forecasts total edible oil production in the country at 7.66 million tonnes for the oil year (November–October) 2017-18, compared to 7.05 million tonnes in the previous year. With an increase in opening stock of a record 2.42 million tonnes, India’s edible oil availability from domestic sources is estimated at an all-time high of over 10 million tonnes. Indian edible oil importers have strategically built a massive inventory on decline in crude palm oil (CPO) prices in the past few months. With a total opening stock of 1.92 million tonnes, India’s total edible oil availability was reported at 8.97 million tonnes in the oil year 2016-17.
The estimated increase in domestic production is likely to reduce India’s annual edible oil import bill, which currently stands at Rs 65,000 crore against an annual inward shipment of around 15 million tonnes. India currently imports CPO largely from Indonesia, refined oil from Malaysia, sunflower oil from Ukraine and refined soybean oil from Argentina.
India reported continuous drought during the past two years resulted in lower oilseed production and domestic edible oil output. Despite a record soybean output last year, domestic crushers did not find parity due to low oil prices in the international markets. Consequently, huge soybean stocks remained uncrushed so far this season. 
Source: Business Standard