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Traders want import duty at 60% to counter cheap sugar from Pakistan

Dec 13, 2017

Traders have requested the food ministry to increase the sugar import duty from 50 per cent to 60 per cent as the drop in local prices coupled with the influx of cheap sugar from neighbouring Pakistan is spoiling the party for farmers here. 
 
Sugar prices have fallen by Rs 3/ kg over the past 60 days in the domestic market at a time when the sugar crushing season has just started. Sugar prices in the Mumbai wholesale market has moved from Rs 36.75/kg on November 1 to Rs 33.60/kg now, said traders. 
 
We have requested the food ministry to increase the duty on import of sugar from 50 per cent to 60 per cent. With Pakistan government giving an export subsidy of roughly Rs 7/kg to export 1.5 million tonnes of sugar, we expect export of sugar from the neighbouring country to start, said Praful Vithalani, chairman, All India Sugar Trade Association. 
 
Sugar, which is imported from Pakistan to Amritsar market under the bilateral trade route of Wagah-Attari, could be as cheap as Rs 27-30/kg, said traders. Vithalani said sugar from Pakistan was generally exported to India by road through the Wagha border and its transportation cost was much lower than getting sugar from Brazil. 
 
    
Source: The Economic Times



India right candidate for differential treatment by WTO, says Suresh Prabhu

Dec 13, 2017

Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu today asserted that India is the right candidate for special and differential treatment by the WTO, rejecting US criticism of countries bypassing rules in the name of self-proclaimed development status. Special and differential treatment is an integral part of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the ground reality that some countries have low per capita income cannot be ignored, Prabhu said at a press meet.
 
 The minister was fielding questions over issues of special and differential treatment as raised by US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in his address at the plenary of the 11th ministerial conference of the WTO.
 
 We need to clarify our understanding of development within the WTO. We cannot sustain a situation in which new rules can only apply to the few, and that others will be given a pass in the name of self-proclaimed development status.
 
 There is something wrong, in our view, when five of the six richest countries in the world presently claim developing country status, Lighthizer had said. Special and differential treatment, Prabhu said in his response, is an important component of the WTO… You cannot ignore realities that certain societies have been left behind in the process of development.
 
Developing nations, including India, he said, are legitimate demandeurs for special and differential treatment… It is also noteworthy that many developed countries of today have benefited from long periods of derogation from GATT rules in the area of agriculture and textiles. In his address at the plenary, Prabhu also expressed concern over the way the discourse at the WTO is being deflected by arguments based on GDP of countries. 
 
We are increasingly seeing that the discourse on development at the WTO is sought to be deflected by specious arguments based on aggregate GDP figures.
    
Source: Financial Express



MoFPI planning to set up bank akin to NABARD for food processing sector

Dec 13, 2017

What the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) is to the agriculture sector in India, the ministry of food processing industries (MoFPI) is considering being to the food processing sector, with its pitch for the establishment of a bank to provide the requisite credit and finance for its projects. 
 
According to the sources in the ministry, this bank would be a largely private entity, while the government will hold a stake in it. A consultation note has been circulated amongst the various ministries for the same. This is expected to come up for discussion shortly.
 
Harsimrat Kaur Badal, minister for food processing industries, confirmed the development, stating that the ministry had initiated the work on the project. She added, The contours are to be worked out. The funds that will be lent to the processing sector are to be created. Analysis as to how this bank would function is underway.
 
It is pertinent to mention that the government had brought the food processing sector under the priority sector lending scheme, and a fund amounting to Rs 2,000 crore had been assigned to NABARD. 
 
However, this loan is available to only the units meant for mega parks, and therefore, its disbursement has been very slow. Hence, there aren’t many takers for the funds. 
 
MoUs inked
Meanwhile, MoFPI, which aims to invest approximately $19 billion over the next two years, informed at the inaugural World Food India Summit, which it organised in New Delhi recently, that 50 Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs), worth $14 billion, were signed. It added that it was planning to pump about $5 billion into the infrastructure projects of the sector.
 
Badal told FnB News, We aimed to transform the food economy of the country, and as a result, $14 billion has been being invested by investors through 50 MoUs, which were inked at the World Food India Summit 2017.
 
The government plans to invest an additional $5 billion through various schemes into the sector. So, a total investment of $19 billion in this sector over the next two or three years will definitely make an impact on the ground, enhancing farmers’ incomes, creating employment and bringing in the world’s best technology, she added. 
 
The minister stated that right from the beginning, the government has worked to create a favourable environment for the sector, be it by setting up a fund of Rs 2,000 crore with NABARD or allowing 100 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in food retail.
 
MoFPI has witnessed a 40 per cent surge in FDI in the country’s food processing sector since last year. According to the ministry, financial year (FY) 2017-18 has continued to display the upward positive trend of foreign investment in the sector,  with $263 million having already been invested within the first quarter (i e between April and June 2017), she added.
 
On the question of the implementation of the MoUs, Badal said a dedicated desk had been created in Invest India to monitor the investment.
 
The actual work will commence after the signing of the MoUs, when the ministry starts implementing the projects. A special cell has been created in Invest India and a dedicated team has been put in place to follow up on each MOU, she added.
    
Source: FNB News



Cotton output seen at 377 lakh bales

Dec 13, 2017

 
The Cotton Advisory Board (CAB) has estimated the fibre’s output to increase by 9 per cent to 377 lakh bales (of 170 kg each) despite lower production in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
 
The output in the northern region is expected to increase 28 per cent to 59 lakh bales (46 lb) on the back of a bumper crop in Rajasthan and Punjab, which is pegged at 22 lb (16 lb) and 12 lb (9 lb).
 
Though the output in the southern region is slated to go up to 104 lb from 90 lb, it may come under revision due to the pest attack in Telangana and Tamil Nadu, said Kavita Gupta, Textile Commissioner, who headed the first CAB meeting for the current season on Tuesday.
 
Acreage
The area under cotton cultivation has gone up 19 per cent to 122 lakh hectares (108 lakh hectares). With a lower import estimate of 17 lb (31 lb) and opening stock of 48 lb (36 lb), the overall supply is put at 442 lb (412 lb).
 
On the demand side, mill consumption is estimated to be higher at 288 lb (263 lb) – consumption by the small-scale and non-textile industry may increase to 27 lb (26 lb) and 19 lb (17 lb). Exports are slated to increase to 67 lb (58 lb) as Pakistan is expected to import from India, said Gupta.
 
Though there were pest attacks in Gujarat, the impact was contained as the farmers adopted the best practices suggested by the Central Institute of Cotton Research.
 
However, Maharashtra suffered the worst pest attack, especially in Yavatmal and Jalgaon. Other States that were hit are Karnataka, Telangana and Madhya Pradesh.
 
On the sharp fall in cotton prices, Gupta said the Cotton Corporation of India has procured 3.5 lb of cotton worth Rs.688 crore at a minimum support price of Rs.4,320 a quintal.
 
However, CCI’s intervention from now on will be limited as prices are expected to stabilise above the MSP, she said.
    
Source: The Hindu Business Line



Government, Asean in talks to take IMT highway up to Vietnam

Dec 13, 2017

The government is in talks with Asean countries to extend the India-Myanmar-Thailand (IMT) highway up to Vietnam, a senior official said today. 
 
India and Asean countries are holding consultations on the extension of the 1,360 km IMT highway -- from Moreh in India to Mae-Sot in Thailand -- to Laos, Cambodia and to Vietnam, she said. 
 
Already some level of discussions have started and...we have also announced certain line of credit for the purpose on certain projects, said Dakshita Das, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. 
 
She was speaking at the Asean-India Connectivity Summit, organised here by industry body CII. 
 
Once we connect, we have a tremendous potential in terms of incremental GDP. Connectivity can generate annually, an estimated USD 70 billion in incremental GDP and 20 million in incremental aggregate employment by 2025, she said. 
 
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), has 10 member nations -- Indonesia, Malaysia, The Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Cambodia. 
 
    
Source: The Economic Times



Govt may allow pre-GST stocks to have revised MRP stickers till March

Dec 13, 2017

The government is expected to allow use of stickers to display revised maximum retail price (MRP) on unsold pre-GST stocks for three months until March 31, a senior official said. 
 
The department of consumer affairs will most likely extend it, and will issue a directive next week, the government official told ET. The department had earlier extended the deadline from September 30 to December 31. Recent changes in GST rates again created a problem of goods carrying old prices printed on them. 
 
When the goods and service tax (GST) was implemented on July 1, the government had allowed marketers to display details of the revised MRP on pre-GST stocks b way of stamping, putting sticker, or online printing. Also, from April 1 onward, manufacturers will not have to display details of GST on packaged commodities. They will need to display only the revised MRP, the official said. 
 
Manufacturers will still need to advertise the change in MRP after implementation of GST, the official said. Trade and industry had sought more time to liquidate pre-GST stocks. 
 
 
To bring equity between pre and post GST period it is necessary that remaining period of current fiscal year should be granted to liquidate the stocks, said Praveen Khandelwal, secretary general of Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT). CAIT had last month written to consumer affairs, food and public distribution minister Ram Vilas Paswan, seeking that the last date be extended till March 31, 2018. 
 
A spokesperson for Dabur said, "Extension of deadline for putting stickers with new prices will help liquidate unsold inventory and ensure that end consumers benefit from the GST reduction.
 
    
Source: The Economic Times



Explore import of commodities like wheat: India to Nigeria

Dec 13, 2017

Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh today urged his Nigerian counterpart to consider import of agri commodities such as wheat, rice, maize, cotton, pepper and fresh grapes. 
 
In a meeting with Nigeria's Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Audu Ogbeh, Singh also called on the African country to take advantage of the line of credit extended to it and training programmes for agriculture and the allied sector. 
 
Nigeria is India's largest trading partner in Africa. There is tremendous potential for further expanding this volume. Nigeria may consider importing fresh grapes, pepper, wheat, maize, rice and cotton, Singh was quoted as saying in the release issued by the agriculture ministry. 
 
While appreciating Nigeria for encouraging Indian firms to explore opportunities in its agriculture sector -- both as investors and agri-service providers -- the minister said India is keen to share its rich agricultural experience. 
 
 
According to Singh, India recently increased training slots under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme to 310 from 200 annually for Nigeria, which also include short-term training programmes in agriculture and allied sectors. 
 
About USD 10 billion concessional loan extended to African nations in 2015, the minister exhorted his Nigerian counterpart to take benefit of the line of credit. 
 
    
Source: The Economic Times



When port ‘trusts’ turn ‘authorities’, berths will have to be privatised

Dec 13, 2017

A plan to convert 11 of the 12 ports owned by the Central government and run as ‘trusts’ into ‘authorities’, will entail large-scale privatisation of cargo berths/terminals operated by the State itself.
 
This is because the ‘port authorities’ formed under the proposed Major Port Authorities Bill will don the role of a landlord — a model widely followed globally wherein the publicly governed port authority acts as a regulatory body and a landlord while private companies carry out port operations, mainly cargo-handling activities.
 
Here, the port authority maintains ownership of the port while the infrastructure is leased to private companies that provide and maintain their own superstructure and install their own equipment to handle cargo. The landlord port, in return, gets a share of the revenues from the private entity.
 
The 11 port trusts (Kamarajar Port is run as a company) widely follow a hybrid format of the long obsolete service port model and the preferred landlord model of port management followed globally.
 
Conflict of interest
This has resulted in a conflict of interest between the port trusts and the private sector, with the former acting both as port regulators and providers of commercial services in many instances.
 
The involvement of the port authorities in terminal operations leads to a conflict of interest, and works against objectivity, the National Transport Development Policy Committee, led by Rakesh Mohan, a former Deputy Governor at the Reserve Bank of India, wrote in the ‘India Transport Report: Moving India to 2032’, submitted to the previous UPA government.
 
Neutral authority
The neutrality of the landlord port authority is a basic requirement for fair competition between port service providers, particularly the terminal operators. The role of the landlord port authority would be to carry out all public-sector services and operations such as the award of bids for cargo terminals and dredging.
 
Privatising the cargo berths run by the State-owned ports themselves has thus become inevitable for a successful transition to the landlord model of port governance, according to a port industry consultant.
 
PPP potential
Of the 240 cargo berths operating at major ports (Centre-owned), 66 berths (28 per cent) are on public-private-partnership (PPP) model, while 174 are State-owned.
 
The PPP potential for the 174 State-owned berths can be gauged on parameters such as traffic projections/cargo growth for next 10 years (until 2025), with berths registering steady cargo growth of more than 6 per cent becoming preferred choices for privatisation, the Indian Ports Association (IPA) has suggested in a report to the ministry.
    
Source: The Hindu Business Line



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