“Events like IndusFood to help achieve $60 billion agricultural export target”: Sh. Santosh Sarangi
The Agriculture Export Policy, 2018 has given a new thrust to agriculture export and the world has started looking at India with seriousness. What outcomes can we expect out of the document in the immediate present and future?
One of the major features and objectives of the Agriculture Export Policy is to double the agricultural export and position India as a major agricultural exporter in the world. By this policy, the Prime Minister has already done the groundwork for doubling farm income. Various steps have already been taken like linking Indian produce to international market and towards processing food for global consumption as a value-added product. The Agriculture Export policy plays a vital role in various conversion rates for players, state government, central ministries, exporters and farmer-producer organisations with the aim of providing a major lift to our exports.
Please elaborate on the salient features of this policy and how effective do you think it is going to be?
Our prime focus is to participate in foreign events and hold Indian events. This gives an advantage to small size exporters who may not have enough funds to enter foreign markets. Another feature includes holding reverse buyer-seller meetings to further complement this policy.
Is $60 billion agriculture export a farfetched idea? How are we going to achieve the target?
No not at all, $60 billion is not a farfetched idea, especially if work is done on processed and value-added products. Working on these will not only provide us with economic benefits but also help highlight the name of our country on the world map in terms of value-added exports.
How do we see WTO compatibility with the Agriculture Export Policy?
As we know, the Agriculture Export Policy doesn’t talk about subsidies or incentives. The Agriculture Export Policy only addresses systemic issues and the steps involved in improving our pre and post-harvest along with various clusters for export; the manner in which we improve the quality of our products and manage more value-added products. It seeks to provide answers to questions of marketing and promotion. Hence, as such, WTO compatibility norms don’t concern us.
You previously mentioned the idea of doubling the income of farmers. Therefore, how much time will it take for the benefits of the Agriculture Export Policy to reach the farmers?
A major difficulty that we are seeing is bringing about the convergence of various stakeholders in India. For this purpose, a meeting was held to prepare a road map and various points were discussed and a helping hand is also required from the various state governments. No initiative is never easy, to begin with, but we believe that most state governments understand their responsibilities and the policy’s importance. Export chains earn a lot more than the non-export chains and, therefore, there is enough anecdotal evidence of farmers’ income going up in those clusters.
Without proper post-harvest infrastructure support for smooth logistical movement of agriculture produce, farm to shipment will not get streamlined. What are the plans for improving on that front?
The Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY) is putting in major efforts to fill the gaps in agriculture like storage, icing, etc. that arise post-harvest. A separate logistics framework is being worked out. A separate committee had recently given its report about filling up of such logistical gaps and initiatives in the Agriculture Export Policy will help supplement its recommendations.
How do you intend to minimise rejections on quality issues – sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS), along with the technical barriers to trade (TBT)?
The Ministry of Commerce is currently trying to create an institutional mechanism where it will be the nodal agency. All departments under the ministry are aligned to meet them. The ministries of agriculture and animal husbandry, as well as the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), are all working towards achieving this common goal. There are two ways to overcome these barriers. One is through mitigation measures, that is, to discuss and sort out with our partner countries. Second is adaptation measures on particular pesticides and agricultural issues, and then see how farmers react to such changeovers.
Our tea exports to Iraq saw a major decline because of various factors such as stopping exports altogether or the inability to match quality requirements. How can such issues be best resolved?
Any deficiency that happens at the level of exporters or importers, and the news that follows not only affect the business but is also damaging to the country’s reputation. Therefore, given the fragile nature of export chains, it is a must to be mindful of such sensitivities.
How can we diversify export baskets, destinations and boost high-value and value-added agricultural exports, with a strong focus on perishables?
More than 50% of our exports comprises of rice, meat and shrimp. So, to diversify we have to closely watch over the need for processed products. We have seen how countries like China, Vietnam and Thailand are working on value-added products along with organic foods to bring about an increase in their market value and have been fairly successful at it. India needs to do the same thing.
What vision do you have regarding ‘Produce in India’ through Geographical Indication (GI)?
We can use GI to appropriately brand our produce so that export volumes go up.
How do we plan towards branding India?
It has to be a joint exercise between the farmers and suppliers and under the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) we are promoting specific brands that will further reach out to the globe and act as a catalyst for branding India.
Farmers are often found to be lacking in confidence and they might resist giving up their land for cluster farming. How do we tackle this problem?
If we are looking to develop these clusters where productivity can be enhanced, we have to first start with an awareness campaign. In this, each farmer is provided with a good education and certification of their product should be done with ease. This will not only enable them to learn good agricultural practices and change the method of harvesting to help increase their profit margins. This ensures quality and plan for pre and post-harvest. Also, various plans involved in processing raw materials and adding them to the branch of value-added products should become an easy task. Furthermore, new technological advancements for the benefit of the farmers are also on the anvil.
How would you relate IndusFood as playing a role in all this?
IndusFood complements the Agriculture Export Policy. Our farmers need to be linked to global markets and one way of linking is to directly involve farmers. IndusFood has attracted a large number of buyers and so their interaction with an equal number of exporters of varying sizes is a big achievement. A beginning was made last year. This being the second edition, the scale at which the event has grown, I have no doubts that it will grow on an exponential scale.