From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Generalised System of Preference
Mains level : Paper 3- Agri-exports
The Indian government has been encouraging agricultural exports to meet an ambitious target of $60bn by 2022.
- The Ministry of Food Processing Industries shows that the contribution of agricultural and processed food products in India’s total exports is 11%.
- Primary processed agricultural commodities form the majority share.
- India’s export earnings will increase by focusing more on value-added processed food products rather than primary processed agricultural commodities (Siraj Hussain, 2021).
- From 2015-16 to 2019-20, the value of agricultural and processed food increased significantly from $17.8bn to $20.65bn.
- The Indian agricultural economy is shifting from primary to secondary agriculture where the focus is more on developing various processed foods.
Changes in India’s agricultural export basket
- Traditionally, Basmati rice is one of the top export commodities.
- However, now there is an unusual spike in the export of non-basmati rice.
- In 2020-21, India exported 13.09 million tonnes of non-basmati rice ($4.8bn), up from an average 6.9 million tonnes ($2.7bn) in the previous five years.
- Indian buffalo meat is seeing a strong demand in international markets due to its lean character and near organic nature.
- The export potential of buffalo meat is tremendous, especially in countries like Vietnam, Hong Kong and Indonesia.
Challenges in Increasing agri-export
- Lack of comparative advantage: The export of processed food products has not been growing fast enough because India lacks comparative advantage in many items.
- Domestic prices of processed food products are much higher compared to the world reference prices.
- Non-tariff measures: The exporters of processed food confront difficulties and non-tariff measures imposed by other countries on Indian exports (Siraj Hussain, 2021).
- Some of these include mandatory pre-shipment examination by the Export Inspection Agency being lengthy and costly.
- Compulsory spice board certification being needed even for ready-to-eat products.
- Lack of strategic planning of exports by most State governments.
- Lack of a predictable and consistent agricultural policy discouraging investments by the private sector.
- Prohibition of import of meat- and dairy based-products in most of the developed countries.
- Withdrawal of the Generalised System of Preference by the U.S. for import of processed food from India.
Consider the question “What are the challenges facing export of processed foods from India? Suggest the way forward.”
- The main objective of the Agriculture Export Policy is to diversify and expand the export basket so that the export of higher value items, including perishables and processed food, be increased
- Support to industry: The policy needs to nurture food processing companies, ensuring low cost of production and global food quality standards, and creating a supportive environment to promote export of processed food.
- Focus on reputed brands: Reputed Indian brands should be encouraged to export processed foods globally as they can comply with the global standard of codex.
- Indian companies should focus on cost competitiveness, global food quality standards, technology, and tap the global processed food export market.
India has competitive advantages in various agricultural commodities which can be passed onto processed foods. It has the potential to become a global leader in the food processing sector.