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Fresh talks on free trade pact with EU to give equal weight to goods, services, investment

Oct 16, 2017

India and the European Union (EU) are set to begin talks soon on re-starting stalled negotiations for a free trade pact but New Delhi will not favour pre-conditions, such as prioritising an investment agreement that the 29-member bloc had earlier insisted upon.
 
It was very clearly decided at the India-EU Summit earlier this month that it would be a comprehensive agreement. So, there is no question of giving investments preference over goods and services. But all issues related to investment protection would definitely get addressed, a government official told BusinessLine.
 
The proposed bilateral free trade pact — officially known as the broad-based trade and investment agreement (BTIA) — launched in 2007, got stalled due to differences over issues such as market openings in India for items like wines and spirits and automobiles and EU’s hesitation in granting India data secure status.
 
The BTIA, which includes market access for goods, services and investments, is also important for India because of the increased market openings it hopes to get for its service professionals.
 
However, when the two sides seemed ready to get back to the negotiating table last year, India’s refusal to renew bilateral investment treaties with individual EU countries that lapsed by April 2017 upset the EU, and it did not respond to India’s requests for dates to re-start talks on BTIA.
 
The EU was insistent that the issue related to the BITs be sorted out before re-launching the BTIA. But New Delhi has held on to its position that the investment agreement that would be negotiated to protect investments from the EU countries would be part of an over-all BTIA that includes goods and services, the official said.
 
New Delhi wants to renegotiate all its past BITs on the basis of a new model BIT drafted by the Finance Ministry that aims to bring down litigation against the government. While it would be negotiating the pacts bilaterally with most countries, in the case of the EU countries, it would be a comprehensive pact for all 29 nations and a part of the proposed BTIA, the official added.
 
The ice was broken at the India-EU Summit in New Delhi where both sides decided to start talks on relaunching negotiations for a comprehensive BTIA. The dates are yet to be confirmed, but there are indications from the EU that it might by as early as next month, the official said.
 
Awaiting right time
While the outlook is positive, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, cautioned that the circumstances needed to be right for the talks to resume.
 
Once the circumstances are right – and only once they are right – we will resume. Today's Summit is an important step in the right direction and our chief negotiators will sit down in the coming days to chart a way forward,” he said at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Narendra Modi after the Summit.
 
The EU is India’s number one trading partner with exports growing from €24.2 billion in 2006 to €37.8 billion in 2016, according to European Commission figures.
 
    
Source: The Hindu Business Line



North East’s Kew pineapples headed for Dubai

Oct 16, 2017

For the first time, pineapples from the North East region are being exported to Dubai.
 
A trial shipment of 1.2 tonnes of the Kew variety of pineapple was flagged off from Agartala to Dubai via Delhi on Friday. The consignment was airlifted by Spicejet at competitive rates.
 
This initiative will pave the way for exports of other horticulture and floriculture produce from the region to major international markets very soon, said DK Singh, Chairman of the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (Apeda).
 
High transportation cost is often a major constraint for shipment of perishable cargo from the North-East. As a result, most of the agri produce grown in the region find it difficult to compete with the produce from other parts of the country.
 
In this background, Apeda had taken an initiative to persuade domestic carriers to charge competitive freight rates for shipping the perishables grown in the region.
 
Stakeholders such as Spicejet, Delhi Airport, Kremy Craft — a Kolkata-based exporter and Apeda were involved in the trial shipment. GMR Group helped with logistic support at Delhi.
 
We expect other airlines also to come forward. There is lot of empty cargo space available while returning back to Delhi from the NE region. Therefore, airlines are offering competitive rates. From Delhi, these airlines operate connecting flights to Middle East, Singh said.
    
Source: The Hindu Business Line



Pepper variants, cumin, thyme from India pave the way for global trade

Oct 16, 2017

India’s efforts to benchmark itself into the global spice trade, recently have paved the way for Codex standards for three spices namely black, white and green (BWG) pepper, cumin and thyme. The approval of the adoption of standards for the three spices is expected to facilitate the evolution of a common standardisation process for their global trade and availability.
 
The need for Codex standards for spices and herbs was felt with a rise in the number of quality and safety issues of spices. India's export of spices has been rising in the past few years. It reached a record 947,790 tonnes valued at Rs 17,664 lakh in 2016-17.
 
The members countries of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), the international food standard-setting body adopted this standards at its 40th session which was held in the month of July at Geneva.
 
Commenting on the ease in the process for the exporters after getting the approval Ram
Kumar Menon, head, business committee, All India Spices Exporters Forum (AISEF), said, “Approval of Codex standards will be of immense help to exporters especially from developing countries since it will facilitate their trade and lead to easing of trade barriers and lead to greater transparency in export. Codex encourages countries to harmonise their national  standards with those of  Codex taking the latter to be a reference point.
 
He added, This move will be of benefit to the spice industry and trade since spice standards can vary from region to region and between countries as well. Such multiple standards make it very confusing for farmers and the rest of the stakeholders in the supply chain. A common or harmonised standard will help in suppliers understanding requirements of customers better, support more efficient production practices and facilitate trade to the benefit of developing countries. It will eliminate trade barriers  and help trigger a consultation  and cooperation process among  producing and consuming countries. It should also be noted that standardisation of spices and herbs would bring about uniformity in certification and enable cost efficiency.
 
More spices and herbs
Meanwhile, Kantipudi Nirmal Babu, director, ICAR-Indian Institute of Spices Research, Kerala said, “The adoption of the Codex standards for three spices (black pepper, cumin and thyme) by the CAC is a pathbreaking development in the area of spices trading and market development. It brings to focus, the issue of quality and safety to the forefront of spice trading. We hope that more spices and herbs will be added to this list.  The move is especially beneficial for India, the largest importer and exporter of spices.  The USP for Indian Black pepper is its intrinsic quality and the establishment and acceptance of Codex standards will ensure that there is no dilution with respect to quality parameters. This will also indirectly help the black pepper farming community by accelerating the process of weeding out sources of low quality black pepper, which has the potential to destabilise domestic black pepper prices realised by the primary producers.
 
An estimate of the impact of Codex standards on black pepper trade volumes cannot be made at this point of time. However, we expect that quality standards will benefit Indian black pepper trade since the produce from India is known for its superior quality. India can leverage its reputation as a source of high quality black pepper to strengthen and diversify its black pepper trade. he added.
 
Overwhelming support
The Codex standards were adopted in the wake of India conducting three sessions of Codex Committee on Spices and Culinary Herbs (CCSCH) in Kochi (in 2014), Goa (in 2015) and Chennai (in 2017). Succeeding in achieving this consensus at the Chennai session, the adopted standards got an overwhelming support from the members countries. It is important to note here that, spices have been included for the first time as commodities that will have such universal standards, which are jointly formed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
    
Source: FNB News



Exports rise for 13th straight month, grow 26 pc in September

Oct 16, 2017

Country's exports grew to USD 28.61 billion in September this year, from USD 23.81 billion in August and USD 22.77 billion during the corresponding month of last year, official data showed on Friday.
 
According to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, exports during September on year-on-year (YoY) basis exhibited a growth of 25.67 per cent to USD 28.61 billion from USD 22.77 billion reported for the corresponding month of last year.
 
In continuation with positive growth exhibited by exports for the last thirteen months, exports during September have shown growth of 25.67 per cent in dollar terms valued at USD 28,613.41 million as compared to USD 22,768.35 million during September, 2016, the ministry said in a statement.
 
During September, all the top ten commodity groups of export have exhibited positive growth over the corresponding month of last year comprising 82.14 per cent share in total exports.
 
These are engineering goods (44.24 per cent), gems and jewellery (7.10 per cent), petroleum products (39.69 per cent), organic and inorganic chemicals (46.06 per cent), ready-made garments of all textiles (29.39 per cent), drugs and pharmaceuticals (14.67 per cent), cotton yarn/fabrics/made-ups, handloom products (15.20 per cent), marine products (32.73 per cent), rice (45.66 per cent) and electronic goods (14.32 per cent).
 
However, the country's imports during the month under review also increased by 18.09 per cent to USD 37.60 billion from USD 31.84 billion in the corresponding period last year.
 
Major commodity group of imports showing high growth in September over the corresponding month of last year are petroleum, crude and products (18.47 per cent), electronic goods (40.90 per cent), pearls, precious and semi-precious stones (56.91 per cent), machinery electrical and non-electrical (16.36 per cent) and coal, coke and briquettes (48 per cent), the statement said.
 
Segment-wise, the data showed that India's oil imports during September increased by 18.47 per cent to USD 8.19 billion, from USD 6.91 billion in the same month last year.
 
The global Brent prices have increased by 19.42 per cent in September 2017 vis-a-vis September, 2016 as per World Bank commodity price data, the statement added.
 
The non-oil imports during September were estimated at USD 29.41 billion which was 17.98 per cent higher from USD 24.93 billion shipped in during the corresponding month of 2016.
 
Consequently, the trade deficit for April-September widened to USD 43.81 billion from USD 16.47 billion reported for April-September 2016-17.
 
Further, the Ministry disclosed that the services exports data provided by the Reserve Bank of India for August 2017 was estimated at USD 13.70 billion and the services trade deficit at USD 5.04 billion.
    
Source: SME Time



Indian economy on very solid track: IMF chief Christine Lagarde

Oct 16, 2017

IMF chief Christine Lagarde has said the Indian economy is on a very solid track in the mid-term, days after the International Monetary Fund lowered its growth forecast for the current and the next year. 
 
Describing the two major recent reforms in India - demonetisation and Goods and Services Tax (GST) - as a monumental effort, Lagarde said it is hardly surprising that there is a little bit of a short-term slowdown as a result. 
 
The IMF last week lowered India's growth projection to 6.7 per cent in 2017, 0.5 percentage points less than its previous two forecasts in April and July, attributing it to demonetisation and introduction of the GST. 
 
It also lowered the country's growth for 2018 to 7.4 per cent, 0.3 percentage points less than its previous two projections in July and April. 
 
India's growth rate in 2016 was 7.1 per cent, which saw an upward revision of 0.3 percentage points from its April report. 
 
Turning to India...we have slightly downgraded India; but we believe that India is for the medium and long-term on a growth track that is much more solid as a result of the structural reforms that have been conducted in India in the last couple of years, IMF Managing Director Lagarde said. 
 
 

 

    
Source: The Economic Times



Demand for soyabean as food and animal feed is rising in India: Scott Sindelar, Minister Counselor, Agriculture Affairs, USDA

Oct 16, 2017

A conference on the Soy: Avenues and Opportunities was organised by the US Soybean Export Council (USSEC) by involving its various stakeholders from the industry, government, academia, agri policy experts, US department of Agriculture (USDA and National Institute of Nutrition etc at Hotel Le Meridien, New Delhi.

Addressing on this occasion Mr. Scott Sindelar, the Minister Counselor of Agriculture Affairs at the American Embassy, New Delhi Said If India wants to increase production of soyabean to meet domestic demand, it should allow use of innovative technologies, including genetically modified organism or GMO or allow imports from global market.
 
He said the existing processing capacity can be utilised by importing oilseed and highlighted that India’s neighbour like Bangladesh is buying from overseas market. India is fifth largest producer of soyabean in the world with production of around 10-12 million tonnes, while the US at the top with 120 million tonnes output.
 
Mr. Vijay Sardana, an agriculture policy and trade expert spoke about addressing the nutritional challenges and creating employment through soy food business. Vijay replied the query on the GST and the regulatory matters. Dr. Prabodh Halde, head regulatory affairs, Marico covered the regulatory norms on the edible oil and other processed food products. Dr. Jyoti Prakash Tamang, Dean Sikkim University talked about various fermented soy food product and its commercialization in India. Mr. D N Pathak, Executive Director of the Soy Processors Association of India (SOPA) stated that soy food is one of the fastest growing businesses in India with an annual growth of 8 to 10%. Mr. Pathak advocated that our government should consider including soy in the school feeding and social welfare programs by framing proper policy on this. Mr. Indranil Chatterjee from the DuPont Nutrition presented about the protein rich foods and beverages made by using soy protein isolates and concentrates.
    
Source: Orissa diary



Govt. working to build PPP based robust agri-value systems to meet nutritional requirement of agri-produce: Official

Oct 16, 2017

The Union Government is building robust agri-value system in collaboration with private players to transform agriculture sector from pure production system into an agri-business, a top Agriculture and Farmer Welfare Ministry official said at an ASSOCHAM event.
 
Producers, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, storehouses and packaging houses representing private sector can come forward and partner with government at district level thereby taking the responsibility for building a value chain system, said Mr Ashok Dalwai, additional secretary, Department of Agriculture Co-operation and Farmer Welfare.
 
The way forward is that we build public-private integrated value chain systems which can partner state-level production systems thereby meeting the nutritional requirements, said Mr Dalwai.
 
We need to reduce production of commodities that are not sold but boost the production of what actually is sold as such we need to build a market-related economy rather than a supply-driven economy, he added.
 
He also said that the main problem being faced by agriculture sector in India is that we have not been able to connect the production centers with consumption centers.
 
We need to integrate series of value chains into vertically integrated supply chain management facilitated by robust agri-logistics in terms of storage, transportation, handling as it would ensure that uncompromised agricultural produce reaches the farm gate, the place where it is required, said Mr Dalwai.
 
He said that considering about 52 per cent of agriculture system in India is rain-fed, there is a need to grow crops which can grow under low-water requirement conditions. We need to bring them to the center of our policy.
 
Rather than focusing on producing crops like paddy and wheat, we need to grow crops like bajra and jawar which have high fibre content and have iron, zinc, manganese, vitamins, minerals, are anti-oxidants and very good for health as they are low-calorie crops, said Mr Dalwai.
 
Stressing upon the need to focus on retaining freshness of produce he said that Indians need not follow western model of eating processed food all the time. We must try and improve agri-logistics including transportation system in a way that consumers are able to eat fresh.
 
He further said that agriculture sector related research orientation has to change in the country. There has been some kind of fatigue during the course of last decade (in agriculture research institutes countrywide) and as such they need to regroup as per the new mandate of agriculture which is just not producing food but also ensure nutrition security and produce agricultural commodities that generate raw material for agro-processing industry and manufacturing sector.

 

    
Source: Business Standard



Gujarat's spices farmers should become exporters: Spices Board chief

Oct 16, 2017

The Spices Board on Friday conducted a buyer-seller meet at the key spice market, Unjha, where about 200 stakeholders discussed trade with domestic and international participants.
 
Spices Board Chairman Dr. A Jayathilak said the meet would trigger more trade deals in Gujarat - a key spices hub. This is a step big enough to turn a new chapter in India for trade in spices. We have set the ball rolling, he added.
 
Giving the trade data, he said in 2016-17 the performance of exporters from Gujarat registered an increase of around 27 per cent in volume and 30 per cent in value over the previous year.
 
Gujarat, the major production and trade hub for seed spices, holds potential to evolve as the export hub of seed spices as well. More farmers should come forward as exporters of spices from the region, said Jayathilak.
 
The discussions during the meet revolved around supply capabilities and market requirements as well as on measures towards conformity with international quality standards while competing in the global market.
 
Leaders from the farming and trading communities dealing in spices such as cumin, fennel, fenugreek, dill seed, ajwain, mustard, sesame, garlic and coriander, interacted with spices exporters and processors from across the country.
    
Source: The Hindu Business Line



Centre working on mechanism to speed up GST refund for exporters

Oct 16, 2017

The central government is working on mechanisms to further speed up the GST refund process for exporters, a minister said on Sunday.
 
We are evolving a mechanism. We are trying to further reduce time for refunds, Minister of State for Commerce & Industry C.R. Chaudhary told the media in New Delhi on the sidelines of the inaugural session of the 186th AGM of the Calcutta Chamber of Commerce.
 
In a relief to exporters, the government recently announced that it would immediately refund exporters for the month of July and August through cheques from October 10 and October 18, respectively.
 
Following a GST Council meeting, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told reporters that this would be an interim relief, and as a long term measure e-wallets will be created for all exporters by April 1, 2018, to carry forward the refund process.
 
Chaudhary said large scale reforms like GST will often lead to hiccups and inconvenience during inception but it will be beneficial in the long run.
 
Rise in export data for September shows that initial hiccups of GST roll out is stabilising, he added.
    
Source: SME Time



India calls for urgent revision of IMF quota

Oct 16, 2017

India has called for urgent revision of the quota of International Monetary Fund in favour of dynamic emerging market so as to reflect the ground realties of the world. 
 
Addressing the annual meetings of the IMF and the World Bank here, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley hoped that this can be accomplished as part of the 15th General Review of Quotas. 
 
There is an urgent case for revising quota shares in favour of dynamic emerging market countries in line with global economic realities to maintain fairness in the governance structure of the Fund, he told the world financial leaders yesterday. 
 
We should make every effort to complete the 15th Review by the agreed timeline of 2019 Annual Meetings, he asserted.
 
Jaitley said the risks to global financial and economic stability have significant implications for IMF's operations.
 
He said the IMF needs to be adequately resourced to meet these demands while functioning as a strong quota-based institution.
 

 

    
Source: The Economic Times



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