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Centre plans to intensify horti-crop cultivation

Oct 18, 2017

The Central government has identified 185 districts across the country for intensification of horticulture cultivation using remote sensing and geo-spatial technologies.
 
The government has identified three fruit crops — banana, mango and citrus — and vegetable and spice crops, such as potato, onion, tomato and chilli, under the programme.
 
The initiative is being undertaken as part of a project launched three years ago, called Chaman or Coordinated Horticulture Assessment and Management using Geoinformatics, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said here on Monday.
 
As part of the project, experts associated with the Mahalanobis National Crop Forecast Centre under the Ministry will use remote sensing and GIS tools to identify areas suitable for growing the crops, rank them according to suitability, and make yield projections and early disease assessments.
 
The technologies would also be used to assess the area under cultivation and forecasting yield, Ministry officials told mediapersons. Horticulture production in the country for the first time touched 300 million tonnes this year and there is potential to increase it further.
 
According to the officials, horticulture crops are different from other crops. They are grown in small plots, have multiple cropping seasons and sometimes have multiple pickings in same season.
 
North-East launch
The project is to be implemented first in the North-East and an interim report of site suitability study for the region is expected to be ready by January next year.
 
The Centre has chosen at least one district in all the North-Eastern States under the project for augmenting horticulture production. The areas will be either in wasteland or those under slash and burn cultivation.
    
Source: Business Line



UK looks to secure new trade deal with India

Oct 18, 2017

The UK is looking forward to secure a new trade deal with India and work more closely with business communities as it prepares to leave the EU, said Priti Patel, the first Indian-origin minister in the British Cabinet.
atel, the Secretary of State for International Development, expressed confidence that the “flourishing” relationship between India and the UK will be further strengthened under the “inspirational” leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as she hosted the annual No 10 Downing Street Diwali celebrations in London last evening.
 
“The Indian government — led by the inspirational Prime Minister Modi — has been such a great friend to Britain. Prime Minister Modi has shown great leadership in India over the last three years and has re-affirmed India’s place as a modern and world leading power,” said Patel, who stepped in to lead the event as Prime Minister Theresa May was holding a crucial Brexit meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels. “The Prime Minister is in Brussels negotiating to secure our future and get a brilliant deal for us. And as Britain leaves the EU and embraces the global opportunities that await us as a free, independent and sovereign country, we will look to India to secure a new trade deal and work more closely with business, communities and the government of India,” said Patel, the Conservative Party MP for Witham.
 
The senior-most Indian-origin politician in the UK government described the growth of India’s middle-class and consumer base as “unprecedented in modern human history” and stressed that she wants Britain to be India’s “first port of call” for providing goods and services.
    
Source: Business Line



Driven by palmolein products, veg oil imports set to touch 15.5 mt

Oct 18, 2017

 
India's imports of palm oil products continued to surge with increased import of RBD Palmolein and Crude Palm Oil (CPO) for the November 2016-September 2017 period.
 
According to data from the Solvent Extractors' Association of India, India's overall veg oil imports for the period stood at 14.2 million tonnes as compared to 13.56 mt last year, indicating a rise of 5 per cent.
 
Based on current import trends, SEA projects India's overall veg oil imports for the year November 2016-October 2017 at 15.5 mt against 14.57 mt last year.
 
The rise in imports is also supported by the strengthening of the rupee against the dollar from September 2016 to August 2017. Against the monthly average of Rs. 66.71 against a dollar in September 2016, the rupee quoted at Rs. 64.48 a dollar in September 2017.
 
The data, however, shows surging imports of palm oil products, the share of which has increased to 61 per cent in overall imports as against 57 per cent last year "thanks to larger import of RBD palmolein and CPO."
 
Meanwhile, import of soft oils, including soyabean oil, sunflower oil, rapeseed/ mustard oil has reduced to a combined 5.39 mt from 5.7 mt last year. "However, within soft-oils, import of sunflower oil has sharply increased at the cost of soyabean oil," SEA noted.
 
"Importers continue to make larger import purchases of sunflower oil, taking advantage of attractive prices vis-à-vis soya oil," it added.
 
According to the SEA data, crude sunflower oil prices hovered at $838 per tonne (CIF Indian port), against which crude soyabean oil quoted at $836 per tonne, giving a marginal difference of $2 per tonne. However, the price difference was wider in September last year when crude sunflower oil quoted at $843 per tonne, against crude soyabean oil priced at $803 per tonne, making the latter a cheaper option to purchase.
    
Source: Business Line



Address exporters’ concerns, Commerce Minister tells Jaitley

Oct 18, 2017

The Commerce Ministry strongly believes that until issues concerning exports are addressed a mid-term review of the foreign trade policy (FTP) will be meaningless.
 
Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu has written to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley raising concerns and seeking quick remedies.
 
The five-year FTP (2015-2020) had laid down a stiff target of $900 billion of annual exports by 2020 but lack-lustre performance in the last two-and-a-half years, will compel the government to bring it down drastically. “Annual exports have been lower than $300 billion during the first half of FTP due to issues such as global slow-down and currency fluctuation. While things seem to have improved, a complete recovery and acceleration in growth will be difficult without incentives,” a government official said.
 
Prabhu stressed on improving usability of the scrips earned under the MEIS — the most popular incentive scheme for exporters covering more than 7,000 items — as post-GST the scrips can be used for payment of only customs duties. This has reduced the premium on the scrips (valued at 2-5 per cent of export amount) as earlier it could be used for payment of all input taxes such as central excise duty and service tax. “The Commerce Minister proposed that the MEIS scrips should be allowed to be used for payment of GST,” the official said.
 
He also proposed that the rate of MEIS be increased from 5 per cent to 7 per cent for labour-intensive sectors such as leather, footwear, handloom, handicraft, Ayush, marine products, electronic components and the MSME sector, which suffer the most during a downturn.
 
An enhanced rate from 3 per cent to 10 per cent in the Services Export from India Scheme (SEIS) has been proposed for hotels and restaurants. Ground handling services under civil aviation sector may also be eligible for incentives of 5 per cent.
 
Other proposals include reducing GST rate on sale of MEIS/SEIS scrips to zero per cent, increasing the rate of interest subvention from 3 per cent to 5 per cent for labour intensive sectors, have capital infusion of ?2,000 crore in ECGC scheme, address working capital blockage due to pay first and then refund principle of GST, exempting merchant exporters from payment of GST and enhancing support for the trade-related Infrastructure for Export Scheme and Enhanced Support For Market Access Initiative schemes.
    
Source: Business Line



North East Small Finance Bank commences operations: RBI

Oct 18, 2017

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said on Tuesday the North East Small Finance Bank has commenced operations.

A small finance bank has been envisioned to undertake basic banking activities of acceptance of deposits and lending to unserved and underserved sections.

The development comes after the RBI issued a licence to the North East Small Finance Bank to carry out the business of small finance bank.

"RGVN (North East) Microfinance Limited, Guwahati was one of the ten applicants which were issued in-principle approval for setting up a small finance bank, as announced... on September 16, 2015," the RBI said in a statement.

    
Source: SME Times



India-EU FTA: chief negotiators to meet mid-November

Oct 18, 2017

Chief negotiators for the India- EU free trade agreement will meet in New Delhi next month in a bid to find a way for the resumption of the long-stalled talks over the proposed pact. 

Ambassador of the European Union (EU) to India Tomasz Kozlowski said that the chief negotiators would meet around mid-November.
 
"We need India as a partner," he said during a session hosted by a city-based think-tank yesterday.
His remarks assume significance as the negotiations for the proposed India-EU Broad based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) have witnessed many hurdles due to major differences on crucial issues such as intellectual property rights and duty cut on automobile and spirits. 
 
"The 14th India-EU Summit this year was different from the one held before that. For the first time we called each other a natural partner as expressed in the joint statement too. We are both governed by values and principles of democracy and rule-based international order. 
"And, now we have transformed those values into clearly identified interests... and our partnership is forward- looking," Kozlowski said during the session on 'India-EU Relations: Can it be a factor of stability in an Uncertain World?' at the India International Centre here. 
"For India, the EU is the biggest trading partner. And, after the Brexit it will only grow bigger," Kozlowski said.
 
On the resumption of talks on the FTA, the EU envoy said, "We want concluding of a broad and comprehensive FTA."
 
"It has to be a win-win situation," he said.
"The chief negotiators will be meeting here soon, mid- November. We (EU) want to move this forward and I'm rather optimistic," the EU envoy said.
 
The 14th India-EU Summit was held in New Delhi on October 6, during which the two sides had held extensive deliberations on bilateral, regional and international issues, including the the Rohingya crisis and the volatile situation in the Korean peninsula.
However, there was no major headway on the much-delayed free trade agreement (FTA) at Modi's meeting with the European Council President Donald Franciszek Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
 
India and the EU have been strategic partners since 2004. The 13th India-EU Summit was held in Brussels on March 30 last year during Modi's visit.
The last year's summit meeting had also failed to make any headway on the resumption of long stalled negotiations for a free trade agreement.
 
Kozlowski also asserted that the EU was a "credible, predictable, and reliable partner" of India in all fields of cooperation.
The EU Ambassador also praised the Narendra Modi-led government for becoming "more outspoken" on various international issues such as Paris Climate Change Conference and the stability of Afghanistan.
 
The envoy later also fielded questions on various other global issues, including the US-North Korea tension, Iran nuclear deal and the proposed Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.
He said that the EU had designated the terror outfit Hizbul Mujahideen as a terrorist organisation in 2005, much before the US did, but not many know about it.
 
Kozlowski also pitched for enhancing flow of information.
On the US-North Korea issue, he said, "As far as the DPRK (Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea) issue is concerned, I can only say, confrontation and military action is not a solution." 
 

 

    
Source: Economic Times



India plans to spend $308 million to improve weather forecasting

Oct 18, 2017

India is planning to enhance its meteorological forecasting capability to more accurately predict severe weather in a localized manner. 

The Ministry of Earth Sciences will send a proposal to the government for spending 20 billion rupees ($308 million) in five years to install more radars, supercomputers and special observatories, said M. Rajeevan, secretary of the ministry. 
 
The modernization program will help the country forecast rain in a small geographical area. In August, the heaviest rainfall since 2005 killed a dozen people in Mumbai, India’s financial capital, and disrupted stock and bond trading and halted a suburban train network that carries about 8 million people a day. Local residents and civic authorities struggled to cope as most roads were submerged and commuters waded through waist-deep floodwater. 
“Urban cities are a serious problem, so we are starting an urban meteorology program,” Rajeevan said in an interview in Chennai on Monday. “There are challenges in terms of predictions.” 
 
 
Accurate and targeted weather forecasts are critical in India, where rain is the lifeline for about 880 million villagers who directly or indirectly depend on farming for a living. India is the world’s second-biggest grower of rice, wheat and sugar. 

 

    
Source: Economic Times



Notable increase in foreign exchange purchase by India: US

Oct 18, 2017

Observing that there has been a notable increase in the scale and persistence of India's net foreign exchange purchases, the US Department of Treasury has told the Congress that it will closely monitor New Delhi's foreign exchange and macroeconomic policies.

"Over the first half of 2017, there has been a notable increase in the scale and persistence of India's net foreign exchange purchases, which have risen to around USD 42 billion (1.8 per cent of GDP) over the four quarters through June 2017," the Treasury said in its latest half-yearly report to the Congress. 

In its report to the Congress "Foreign Exchange Policies of Major Trading Partners of the United States," the Treasury said India has a significant bilateral goods trade surplus with the US, totalling USD 23 billion over the four quarters through June 2017. 
"Treasury will be closely monitoring India's foreign exchange and macroeconomic policies," it said. 
In its report, the Treasury said that it assesses net purchases of foreign currency, conducted repeatedly, totaling in excess of 2 per cent of an economy's GDP over a period of 12 months to be persistent, one-sided intervention.
 
Switzerland and Brazil meet this criterion for the four quarters ending June 2017, as per Treasury estimates.
"India is very close to meeting this criterion for the four quarters ending June 2017, with net purchases of foreign currency slightly below 2 per cent of GDP," it said.
 
The report said, China has an extremely large and persistent bilateral trade surplus with the US, by far the largest among any of the US' major trading partners, with the goods trade surplus standing at USD 357 billion over the four quarters through June 2017.
Moreover, China continues to pursue a wide array of policies that limit market access for imported goods and services, and maintains a restrictive investment regime that adversely affects foreign investors.
 
In comparison to the extremely large and persistent bilateral trade imbalance, China's multilateral external position has undergone greater adjustment in recent years, with its current account surplus falling to 1.4 per cent of GDP in the first half of 2017 from 1.8 per cent of GDP in 2016, and down from 10 per cent of GDP in 2007, the report said.
 
Further, after engaging in one-way, large-scale intervention to resist appreciation of the renminbi (RMB) for a decade, China's recent intervention in foreign exchange markets, tightened capital controls, and increased discretion over setting the daily fixing rate of the RMB have likely prevented a disorderly currency depreciation that would have had negative consequences for the United States, China, and the global economy.
 
"Treasury remains concerned by the lack of progress made in reducing the bilateral trade surplus with the US," the report said.
 
The Trump Administration remains deeply concerned by the significant imbalances in the global economy, the report said.
Bilateral trade imbalances with many of our major trading partners have grown to very large levels, it said adding that more broadly, current account surpluses in several major trading partners have not only been large but unusually persistent over the last decade. 

 

    
Source: Economic Times



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