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Urad, moong imports put in restricted category

Aug 22, 2017

The government on Monday put imports of urad and moong dal under the restricted category and fixed a cap for its in-bound shipments up to three lakh tonnes.
 
The move will help in stabilising domestic prices that have fallen below the minimum support level and are hurting farmers.
 
The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), under the commerce ministry, also said import of this dal is subject to annual quota of three lakh tonnes.
 
Import of urad and moong dal is revised from free to restricted, the DGFT said in a notification.
 
It, however, said this restriction will not apply to the government's import commitments under any bilateral and regional agreement.
 
Moong production touched a record 2.07 million tonnes (mt) in 2016-17 crop year that ended June as against 1.59 mt in the previous fiscal.
 
India is the world's largest pulse producer and importer.
 
Earlier this month, the government had also put imports of pigeon peas and toor dal under the restricted category.
    
Source: Business Standard



Export of vegetables to Singapore on the rise

Aug 22, 2017

Vegetables grown in Tamil Nadu have become a favoured commodity in Singapore given the huge volume of export to the South-East Asian nation every month.
 
Among overseas nations having direct flight connectivity with Tiruchi, Singapore has emerged as the leading overseas market for shippers of the central region exporting vegetables to the country every day.
 
Nearly 400 tonnes of perishables – vegetables, fruits and flowers – were being exported to Singapore per month from Tiruchi international freight terminal through three overseas carriers.
 
Exports to Singapore alone constitute nearly 80% of the entire overseas freight dispatched from Tiruchi international airport every month. Of the nearly 20 tonnes of perishables dispatched overseas daily, nearly 13 tonnes to 14 tonnes were directed to Singapore, say airport sources.
 
The huge demand in Singapore for vegetables grown in Tamil Nadu; the competitive rates offered to shippers of the central region and the frequency of flights has led to this rising trend, say stakeholders.
 
Assorted vegetables including brinjal, ladies finger and beans besides lemon, coconut and chillies make for the bulk of exports to the South East Asian country. Vegetables are lifted to Singapore by Singapore-bound Scoot Airlines and the Kuala Lumpur –bound Air Asia and Malindo Air flights. The sources said Air Asia and Malindo Air which operates 28 flights and 13 flights to Kuala Lumpur respectively every week from Tiruchi lifts freight meant only for Singapore though they operate to the Malaysian capital.
 
If only Air India Express which also operates a daily service to Singapore comes forward to lift adequate freight from here, the volume cargo to that country would only soar further given the demand, feel the stakeholders.
 
International cargo is lifted in the left over belly space of overseas passenger flights after accommodating baggage of the travellers in the absence of dedicated freighter aircraft from here.
 
As compared to Coimbatore and Madurai international airports in the State, the volume of international freight dispatched from Tiruchi to Singapore and other foreign destinations was much higher.
 
International cargo handled at Tiruchi airport during the 2016-17 financial was over 6,800 tonnes - which was nearly six times higher than what was handled at Coimbatore airport, according to Airports Authority of India statistics.
 
The sources said Kuwait was another overseas destination where daily shipments of nearly 2.5 tonnes of perishables take off from here and reaches there via Colombo.
 
Given the current demand and potential, stakeholders feel that if a dedicated freighter is operated at least once or twice a week to Singapore, the cargo volume would only further rise.
    
Source: The Hindu



How to globalise the Indian farmer; the dots can be connected; here is how

Aug 22, 2017

India’s agricultural exports have risen to $25 billion to take a share of 9% of its total exports—from 7.1% in 2010-11. Today, a marginal farmer from Heran, a village in Punjab, finds markets in the UK for his produce of baby corn.
 
India ranks second in fruits and vegetables production in the world. Its exports of cereals, spices, fruits and vegetables in 2016 stood at $11.4 billion, accounting for 3.5% of global exports. India enjoys the second-largest arable land size after the US and is home to 14 agri-zones, offering a range of climates and soil conditions conducive to agri produce diversification that can address world markets successfully.
 
The government’s objective of doubling farmer incomes by 2022 deploys a multi-pronged approach. There is a need to introduce greater linkages between crop production and food processing so that farmers can gain from more stability in prices, less volatility in production and higher incomes.
 
The National Agriculture Market (e-NAM) scheme is a welcome initiative to offer choice to farmers for identifying best prices. In 13 states, 417 Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee mandis have been unified so far and 168 more will be linked. Over 45 lakh farmers have been registered on e-NAM.
 
The Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana for crop insurance and Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana for irrigation can help boost security of farmers. The coverage of insurance has been increased to 40%. The irrigation campaign aims to bring 7.6 million hectares additional land under irrigation. A long-term irrigation fund has been set up under NABARD with corpus going up to Rs 40,000 crore. The model law on land leasing could help producer organisations aggregate land from owners to produce certain crops for processing. The idea is to incentivise large food processing centres that would help create new jobs.
 
Similarly, over 7.1 crore soil health cards have been issued to provide customised crop-specific recommendations for nutrient application. The number of sanctioned soil testing laboratories too has increased from just 15 in 2011-14 to over 9,000 during 2014-17. Mobile apps such as Kisan Suvidha and Pusa Krishi provide farmers with access to critical information about weather, plant protection, market prices and more.
 
There is a renewed thrust on organic farming and the government’s Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region has seen 176% increment in cumulative area under organic farming in the last five years. Sikkim, the first organic state of India, leads the way. The Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana further underlines the government’s emphasis on quality by providing assistance to farmers for cluster formation, conversion of land to organic farming, creating vermi-compost units, branding organic products, etc. Over 9,100 clusters have been approved under the scheme so far. A seed hub has been established to provide quality pulses to farmers.
 
While farm productivity is one end of the food supply chain, the other is creating an efficient market for processing farm produce. To reduce wastage and increase value addition, seven mega food parks and 63 cold chain projects have been operationalised in the last three years. The scheme SAMPADA (Supplement Agriculture, Modernise Processing and Decrease Agri-waste) also seeks to leverage investment of Rs 31,400 crore and benefit 20 lakh farmers. The strategy is to build 41 mega food parks, and these facilities are included in the infrastructure sector to incentivise investments.
A campaign to build the India brand for food processing is in progress, under the ministry of food processing industries’ initiative of World Food India to be held later this year. It involves working with different countries on promoting Indian fruits and vegetables and processed foods. With Indian now among the popular cuisines globally, such an effort is bound to deliver significant results. With food quality and safety gaining mindspace of the consumer, it is important to look at standards and harmonise these with global norms. The FSSAI has stepped up its efforts, and the World Food India would take this further.
 
It’s time we connect our agri system to the food processing industry and through it to the global value chain. More farmers like the baby corn farmer in Punjab need to be linked with global markets if India is to provide higher incomes in agriculture.
    
Source: Financial Express



India’s foreign reserves at record high: DBS

Aug 22, 2017

India’s foreign reserves continue to march to record highs, touching USD 393 billion early this month backed by strong foreign portfolio and investment flows, according to Development Bank of Singapore (DBS). Strong year-to-date foreign portfolio (USD 24 billion), net investment flows (USD 13 billion) and lower absorption due to a narrower current account deficit have led to an increase in dollar liquidity, the DBS noted in its daily market report.
 
Notably, since late 2013’s taper tantrums, the quantum of jump in India’s reserves (USD 100 billion) is the highest compared to its Asian counterparts, outside of Japan, the bank said. If left unsterilised, these inflows will add to the rupee appreciation pressures, with the rupee already up 6 per cent so far this year, leading its BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) peers, it said. Soaking up these dollar flows have added to the surplus rupee liquidity in the system, albeit the latter at current levels is less of a worry to the central bank’s inflation mandate in midst of lacklustre credit growth, the bank said in the report.
 
Inferring from the central bank’s intervention trends, reserves are set to rise further in the months ahead. The authorities have been active not only on the spot but also in the forward, to minimise any immediate impact on liquidity, the DBS observed.
 
Accordingly, spot FX (Foreign Exchange) purchases amounted to USD 13 billion in January-June 17, while the net forward position stood at USD 16 billion, bulk of the latter in the three-month to one-year bucket.
 
Rising reserves build a buffer against external volatility, backed also by a narrower current account deficit, lowering India’s vulnerability to external risk events, the bank said. However, a downside of this build-up is the associated costs and weak returns in midst of soft global yields. This was one of the reasons behind a reduction in the Reserve Bank of India surplus dividends’ contribution to the government’s coffers, besides the cost burden associated with demonetisation and liquidity absorption, the bank said.
    
Source: The Hindu Businessline



Oil palm industry welcomes hike in import duty

Aug 22, 2017

The Oil Palm Developers and Processors Association (OPDPA), an association of oil palm firms, has welcomed the Union government’s move to increase import duties on palm oil. The government raised the import duty to 15 per cent from 7.5 per cent and on refined palm oil to 25 per cent from 15 per cent.
 
The impact of the increase on crude Palm Oil alone translates to around ?40-60 crore extra in the hands of the farmer, said OPDPA President Sanjay Goenka.
 
The industry for long is asking the government to help promote domestic production by offering incentives to farmers. In order to incentivise the farmers, it wanted some protection from imports.
 
The duty hike would help farmers to get a remunerative price for their produce and help the domestic processing industry remain self-sufficient, he felt.
 
He wanted the government to take measures to insulate the farmers from price fluctuations.
    
Source: The Hindu Businessline



India an important trade and investment partner for: Australia's Trade Minister

Aug 22, 2017

Indian visitors are expected to contribute 1.9 billion dollars to the Australian economy by 2020, Australia's Trade Minister said, describing India as an important trade and investment partner. 
 
For the year-ending March 2017, Australia welcomed 274,500 visitors from India, 15.3 per cent more than the previous year, Steve Ciobo said.
 
During the same period Indian visitors spent more than 1.3 billion dollars in Australia, making it the eighth largest market for Australia in terms of money spent by travellers, Ciobo said. 
 
The minister said that India was a growing and important tourism market for Australia and Indian visitors were expected to be worth 1.9 billion dollars to the Australian economy by 2020.
 
The minister stressed that the Government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull recognised the importance of the Indian market to Australia's tourism industry which prompted the implementing of online visa applications. The government was also piloting a three-year, multiple entry visitor visas. 
 
Tourism is also one of the key sectors for the India Economic Strategy, commissioned by Prime Minister during his visit to India earlier in the year, which will look at opportunities to grow and diversify Australia's economic relationship with India over the coming years, he said. 
 
Describing India as an important trade and investment partner for Australia, the minister said that he will lead a business mission to Australia Business Week in India, at the end of the month, which will promote Australian capability and expand Australia's trade, investment and education relationships. 
 
The country has also roped in former cricket captain Michael Clarke to promote tourism and woo tourists to visit and experience the country from its key international markets. 
 
Clarke will work with Tourism Australia (TA) to encourage people in our key international markets, especially India, to visit and experience Australia. 
 
Clarke was made 'Friend of Australia' during TA's annual India Travel Mission last week in Pune. 
 
Clarke's new role will include hosting events, media appearances and networking with travel agents and key tourism stakeholders to show the world why there is nothing like Australia. 

 

    
Source: The Economic Times



Govt restricts import of moong and urad dal at 3 lakh tonnes

Aug 22, 2017

India has capped imports of green gram (moong) and black matpe (urad) at 300,000 tonnes, the government said in a notification on Monday, as the prices of the pulses have plunged due to record production.
 
The restriction will help support local prices of both the lentils in the world's biggest importer of the pulses, but will put pressure on producers such as Myanmar, Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi which rely on exports to India.
 
In the financial year running from April to March traders can import no more than 300,000 tonnes of green gram, also known as moong locally and black matpe or urad.
 
The government had earlier this month put restrictions on imports of pigeon peas (tur) at 200,000 tonnes
    
Source: Business Standard



India agrees to discuss its investment policy in Brics

Aug 22, 2017

In a move to boost investment in the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) bloc, New Delhi has agreed to discuss issues in investment policymaking. This marks an important shift in the country’s stand, say experts. 
 
The issues of easing investment guidelines and bringing transparency in investment policy fall in the ambit of investment facilitation, which India has always said to be a matter of domestic policy.
 
Though the agreement is nonbinding, the move might open the floodgates for such issues to get included in negotiations of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and lead to countries losing control on investment regulation, including in strategic sectors. Though India had participated in bilateral discussions on investment, it is opposed to discuss it in the WTO. We have agreed for transparency in investment policy, said an official aware of the details. 
 
Independent trade experts see this as a big shift in India’s policy. 
 
Investment facilitation is the stepping stone for investment protection. This move is like breaking the glass ceiling as it has been out of the WTO’s purview, said an expert who did not want to be named.
 
The decision was made earlier this month at the seventh meeting of Brics trade ministers in Shanghai, where the bloc adopted 'Outlines for Brics Investment Facilitation'. India's move to open up in this area is important because Russia, Brazil and China have already made separate proposals in the WTO for easing investment rules. 
 
The terms of the agreement are on a best endeavour basis. 
 
It is nonbinding and voluntary, the official said. 
 
In May, India had objected to including the issue of 'trade and investment facilitation' for discussion in the General Council, the highest level decision-making body of the WTO. 
 
This move was severely criticised by some Brics nations with some even accusing India of blocking the agenda of easing investment regulations. 
 
We should be careful and cautious to not allow this issue to be discussed multilaterally as it deals with our policy and how we deal with foreign investors, said an expert on trade. 
 
These discussions can be cited to force India to start deliberations at the WTO as well. Besides fearing loss of control on investment regulation in strategic sectors, India has maintained that the issue doesn't have the mandate to be discussed at WTO since it limits right of countries to regulate investment.
 
ET View: Liberalise FDI 
India is now one of the more open economies when it comes to investments. And we do need to be involved in global rule-making in the domain of investment regulation. In tandem, we need to further liberalise FDI rules. Save for a few sensitive sectors, where FDI needs to be restricted or even banned for the greater good, we need to invite cent per cent FDI stake in most sectors. As a capital-scarce economy, we need to be much more welcoming to investments. 

 

    
Source: The Economic Times



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