Augmenting Exports Addressing Concerns Like Food Testing Need of Hour
Addressing state ministers, minister of state (independent charge) for commerce and industry Nirmala Sitharaman said that to streamline and develop food exports, there was an immediate need to augment exports and address concerns like food testing, certification, trace-back, packaging and labelling.
The ministers discussed augmenting international exports as it had been decided that infrastructure be developed to support international trade to control the trade deficit in a meeting conducted at the Council for Trade Development and Promotion.
The ministry of commerce and industry controlled imports. To facilitate trade, it observed that augmenting exports would serve as a key to containing the trade deficit.
Sitharaman said, “Steps are required to improve the export competitiveness of food products, and the need of the hour is partnering in the adoption of such measures to create an environment conducive to exports.”
“One such area which requires immediate intervention is facilities for food testing, certification, trace-back, packaging and labelling. Sector-specific needs can broadly be categorised into interventions required for agri and marine products, for forest produce and for industrial products,” she added.
Earlier, the Centre had suggested that higher allocations of resources be considered for setting up common facilities like testing labs, training institutes as well as packaging and storage support to the industry. Later, the states insisted that there be a Central scheme to support export infrastructure.
The ministry of commerce and industry is working to formulate a scheme which will provide financial support and supplement the efforts of the states to create export infrastructure.
The work towards the scheme was initiated last year through inculcating the need to certify the exports. The certification will ensure that food business operators (FBOs) comply with the laws of the countries to which the goods will be exported.
Sitharaman stated, “ I hope we will soon succeed in achieving a consensus for the roll-out of this scheme, which is very aptly titled the Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme (TIES). This would surely strengthen our ties with the states.”
“The states have also been directed to develop their export strategy aligned with the national trade policy. So far, 17 states have formulated their export strategies. I wish the others expedite their export strategies,” she added.
Sunil Sachdev, managing partner, Ayush Impex, an importer and exporter of fruits and vegetables, said, “There are several countries that have ample flora, which can be introduced in the Indian markets.
But it is stalled due to incomplete international agreements, bilateral treaties under negotiation and many other issues. If you consider exports, they are suffering due to issues of quality,” he added.
Sachdev added, “Exporters need to be educated as a conscious effort should be made on the part of government to communicate the updates with the traders. This will help to initiate some action.”
“The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) developed packhouses for mangoes as a ban was imposed on them in the year 2014. These packhouses enabled mangoes to be packed in controlled temperatures and free from residues and other hazards,” he informed.
“A similar concept was developed by the Spices Board after it found that the spices circulated in the domestic market in the southern part of India was not up to the standards laid down by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). It came up with the export facilitation unit which ensured that all the consignments of spices were safe. Such efforts could lead to better food exports,” Sachdev added.
Drawing reference from World Trade Organisation (WTO) notifications, Sitharaman said, “As some of you may have seen on the Indian trade portal, 100-150 sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) notifications and a similar number of technical barriers to trade (TBT) notifications are being issued by WTO member countries every month. About 50-60 per cent of these measures have the potential to impact our trade.”
Meanwhile, the minister of commerce and industry urged the members of the states to consider organising bi-monthly meetings with the exporters in their respective states to sort out their infrastructure and tax-related issues which would go a long way in improving our trade competitiveness.