Food park inaugurated in Punjab to benefit 25000 farmers and create 5000 jobs

Source: The Economic Times, Nov 24, 2020

Food Processing minister Narendra Singh Tomar inaugurated a mega food park (MFP) at Phagwara in Kapurthala district of Punjab that will benefit 25,000 farmers and create 5,000 jobs, an official statement said. “Punjab and Haryana have significant role in development of agriculture sector of India. This MFP built at project cost of Rs 107.83 crores and spread over 55 acres of land is expected to benefit about 25000 farmers,” he said. Till date, 37 MFPs have been sanctioned and 20 have already started functioning.

Tomar added that due to untiring efforts of farmers of these two states, India is not only self reliant in food grains but is food surplus. He said that Punjab has been ahead in production of rice and wheat however, due to reduced ground water levels, diversification of crops is required for which Punjab farmers have taken several steps.

“Food processing sector needs to be focussed upon so that farmers get fair prices and related sectors can also benefit,” he said in a statement. The Sukhjit mega food park is equipped with warehouses, silos ,cold storage, deep freezer and other related food processing facilities.

Tomar said that the government is continuously working for welfare of farmers under leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A Rs 10,000 crore fund has been created under Aatmanirbhar Bharat, for development of food processing sector which will benefit farmers and create employment opportunities, he said. Rameswar Teli, MoS, food processing, said that latest technology and processing facilities will reduce wastage of food products and ensure fair prices for farmers.

Over 70,000 Indian exporters gear up for Black Friday, Cyber Monday sale through Amazon

Source: The Economic Times, Nov 24, 2020

New Delhi: E-commerce major Amazon on Tuesday said more than 70,000 Indian exporters who are part of its ‘Global Selling’ program are gearing up to showcase millions of ‘Made in India’ products during its annual Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale on Amazon.com. On Black Friday last year, Indian exporters had seen a 76 per cent year-on-year growth in the total units sold and on Cyber Monday, they witnessed 55 per cent year-on-year growth in total units sold, a statement said.

“The exporters are launching thousands of new products on Amazon’s global websites for the upcoming holiday season,” it added.

The Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale starts on November 26 and ends on November 30 this year.

“Amazon customers globally will be able to discover and enjoy a range of products including gifting options like STEM toys, fashion jewelry, teas and beverages, beauty products, leather journals and bags by exporters from across India,” the statement said.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are significant events marking the beginning of the holiday season in the US with large-scale shopping from customers for gifts for friends and family.

Black Friday is celebrated a day after Thanksgiving with retailers wooing potential shoppers with special deals and discounts.

Online retailers had started offering special promotions on the Monday that followed Thanksgiving weekend (similar to Black Friday sale by brick and mortar stores), hence the name Cyber Monday.

‘Made in India’ products across categories like health and hygiene, nutritional supplements and home essentials have heightened demand from customers in markets like the US, Canada, Europe, Mexico, Japan, Australia, amongst others, this year.

Amazon said it works with Indian exporters to help them identify key holiday shopping trends to bring in relevant product assortment, supports them with logistics solutions to get their inventory ready, and guides them to market their products through a range of deals and advertising options.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) is an important time of the year for Indian MSMEs on Amazon Global Selling as it marks the beginning of the global holiday season, Amazon India Director – Global Trade Abhijit Kamra said.

“Coming right after the festive season in India, it has traditionally been a key growth period for our selling partners and with more and more people relying on e-commerce for products globally, we believe that the 2020 BFCM sale period will help accelerate the exports business for our sellers,” he added.

Exports will continue to play a critical role in the revival and growth of Indian economy and e-commerce exports help lower the entry barrier for Indian MSMEs to build and scale their exports business, Kamra said.

“Through Amazon Global Selling, we will continue to make exports easy and accessible for MSMEs across India and contribute to the government’s vision of boosting exports,” he added.

Some of the globally popular Indian brands from Amazon Global Selling who would be offering their unique products and creations this holiday season include Jackinthebox Toys, jewellery brands like Aheli and Jewel Zone, and SVA Organics.

The company had launched Amazon Global Selling programme in 2015 with about 100 exporters.

It has now scaled to over 70,000 Indian exporters who sell products to customers worldwide through 15 international websites in countries such as the US, the UK, UAE, Canada, Mexico, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Netherlands, Turkey, Brazil, Japan, Australia and Singapore.

The programme has already crossed the USD 2 billion-mark in cumulative exports. In January this year, Amazon had pledged to enable USD 10 billion in cumulative exports by 2025.

India’s Oct crude imports mark biggest fall since July

Source: LiveMint.com, Nov 23, 2020

BENGALURU: India’s October crude oil imports posted their steepest fall since July and seventh consecutive monthly year-on-year decline as rising COVID-19 cases limited mobility and curbed consumption, government data showed on Monday.

Crude oil imports into the world’s third-biggest oil importer and consumer fell 21.6% from a year earlier to 15.14 million tonnes, or 3.58 million barrels per day (bpd), data from the Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell (PPAC) of the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas showed.

“Due to the surging coronavirus cases, travel is still being avoided in the tier two and tier three cities and that along with muted air travel is weighing on oil demand in India,” said Kunal Shah, head of research at Nirmal Bang Commodities in Mumbai, India.

“Also, when we come across such a huge fall (in imports), it generally points towards the fact that the existing demand is already being met by inventory from prior months.”

The import of oil products also slumped 53% to 1.65 million tonnes in October.

Meanwhile, exports of refined products fell 35.7% in October from a year ago to 3.84 million tonnes, and were down 20% from 4.80 million tonnes in September.

Diesel shipments continued to hold a major share of the total exports but were down 24% on year to 2.37 million tonnes and fell 11.2% on a month-on-month basis.

Exports of gasoline, or petrol, were down 19.8% to 797,000 tonnes versus a year ago.

India has the second-highest number of infections in the world after the United States with 9.14 million.

But looking ahead, factory activity is picking up and oil demand should rise in the next two to three months, Shah said. India’s factory activity in October expanded at its fastest pace in more than a decade.

India’s 2020-21 edible oil imports pegged at 12.5-13.5 mn tonne: SEA

Source: Business Standard, Nov 23, 2020

New Delhi: India’s edible oil imports are estimated to remain range-bound at 12.5-13.5 million tonne in 2020-21 oil year due to sluggish hotel consumption in the wake of COVID-19 and a possible rise in domestic production, according to trade body SEA.

The country’s edible oil imports declined 13 per cent to 13.52 million tonne in the 2019-20 oil year (November-October), it said.

“We are pegging imports to remain range-bound between 12.5 to 13.5 million tonnes in 2020-21,” Mumbai-based Solvent Extractors Association of India (SEA) President Atul Chaturvedi said in a statement.

Edible oil imports may be restricted because of hopes of higher domestic oilseed production and expectation of 1-1.5 million tonne higher edible oil output.

Poor demand due to lower out of home consumption in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic will have a bearing on imports this year.

“India is a price-sensitive market and high prices may affect consumption negatively,” he said.

SEA mentioned that oilseeds farmers, particularly mustard growers, are planting in more areas – responding positively to the high price signal. “We should not be surprised if Oilseed production goes up big time.”

The cumulative effect of all these factors would ensure that Indian edible oil imports may remain restricted, it added.

In the 2019-20 oil year, SEA said, crude edible oil comprised 97 per cent of the total imports, as domestic refining capacity utilisation improves significantly.

As refined oils were kept under restricted import category, its shipments were restricted to only 4.21 lakh tonne in 2019-20 as compared to 27.31 lakh tonne in the previous year.

India net exporter of agri-machinery equipment to some advanced countries

Source: Business Standard, Nov 23, 2020

New Delhi: India has emerged as a net exporter of agri-machinery to some of the advanced countries like the US, the UK, Germany and Italy, an engineering export body said on Monday.

Engineering Export Promotion Council (EEPC) India vice chairman Arun Garodia said in a statement, tractors are the largest component of the agri-machinery exports from the country, accounting for 66 per cent of the shipments.

“India’s export of agricultural machinery during 2Ol9 -2O was USD 1024.58 million witnessing a positive trade balance of USD 708.3 million,” the EEPC said in the statement quoting Minister of state for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Parshottam Rupala.

The global agriculture equipment market is projected to reach USD 279.5 billion by 2025, growing at a compound annual groth rate (CAGR) of 6.5 per cent from 2018 to 2025. India exported USD 782.93 million worth of agri machinery to the UK, North America, Eastern Europe, EU, Africa, ASEAN and SAARC during 2019-20, accounting for 76.41 per cent of such exports, the statement said.

Disney joins e-commerce market in India

Source: ETRetail.com, Nov 24, 2020

The jostle for the e-commerce space may have just become tighter as Disney India has joined the competition.

On Monday, the American media giant unveiled shopDisney (shopDisney.in), its e-commerce marketplace, offering a variety of Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars products from authorized international and domestic licensees.

To begin with, it is offering over 3,000 items across categories, including fashion, toys, apparel, back-to-school, accessories, and gifts. “ShopDisney will also offer Disney-designed shipping boxes, special services like gift wrapping, and delivery to more than 500 cities across India,” it said.

Now, consumers have the option to choose from a curated range of best-in-class, authentic licensed merchandise inspired by their favourite stories and characters such as Mickey and Friends, Disney Princess, Frozen, Marvel’s Avengers, Spider-Man, and more.

“With shopDisney, our endevour is to bring genuine Disney licensed products inspired by our stories and characters to every household in the country. shopDisney will extend the magic of Disney and be a truly immersive experience for kids and families wherever and whenever they want,” said Sanjeet Mehta, Executive Director and Head, Consumer Products, Disney India.

RBI asks banks not to approve proposals of foreign law firms to open branch office in India

The RBI on Monday asked banks not to approve any proposal of foreign law firms to open a branch office, project office or liaison office in the country under FEMA for the purpose of practicing legal profession.

The RBI has issued a circular in this regard in view of a Supreme Court order wherein the apex court held that advocates enrolled under the Advocates Act, 1961 alone are entitled to practice law in India and foreign law firms or foreign lawyers cannot practice the profession of law.

“… banks are directed not to grant any approval to any branch office, project office, liaison office or other place of business in India under FEMA for the purpose of practicing legal profession in India,” the RBI said.

Further, “they shall bring to the notice of the Reserve Bank in case any such violation of the provisions of the Advocates Act comes to their notice”, it added.

The RBI in October 2015 had advised banks not to grant fresh permissions or renew permissions already granted to any foreign law firm for opening of liaison office in India till the policy in this regard is reviewed based on, among others, final disposal of the matter by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court, it said, while disposing of the case, held that advocates enrolled under the Advocates Act, 1961 alone are entitled to practice law in India and that foreign law firms/companies or foreign lawyers cannot practice the profession of law in India.
As such, foreign law firms/companies or foreign lawyers or any other person resident outside India, “are not permitted” to establish any branch office, project office, liaison office or other place of business in India for the purpose of practicing legal profession, the circular said.

Plans afoot to cut imports by a fourth

Source: Financial Express, Nov 23, 2020

A strategy to trim imports of as much as Rs 10 lakh crore or more than a fourth of India’s annual purchases from abroad is in the works, sources told FE. They added the government is also working on a plan to boost exports in two dozen “priority sectors” through elevated local output. The plan is in sync with the Aatmanirbhar Bharat initiative.

A concerted push to step up local manufacturing of quality products will be made, mainly through two schemes — production-linked incentives (PLI) and phased manufacturing plans (PMP). These schemes will not just help create extra capacities by luring large firms and cut imports but also improve exports substantially, a source said. At the same time, as reported by FE, both tariff and non-tariff measures will be put in place, wherever required, to target low-grade imports, which will likely hurt China.

If properly implemented, it will be the biggest drive for import substitution in decades.

The 24 priority sectors include electronics, auto components, textiles, steel, aluminium, marine products, ready-to-eat and processed fruit & vegetable (mango, potato, citrus), agrochemical, electric vehicles and integrated circuits, toys, furniture, ethanol, ceramics, set-top boxes, robotics, televisions, close-circuit cameras, drones, medical devices, sporting goods and gym equipment.

Already, the government this month launched PLI schemes for 10 sectors, on top of the three announced in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak. The total fiscal incentives are estimated to be close to Rs 2 lakh crore over a five-year period. Most of these 13 sectors — such as auto components, electronics, steel, textiles and processed food — where PLI is rolled out are part of the 24 priority ones.

While boosting local manufacturing, the government is also planning to raise tariffs on a host of items. Earlier this year, industry executives had drawn a list of 1,173 items — ranging from auto parts, compressors for AC and refrigerators to select steel and aluminium products and electrical machinery — for the government to zero in on products/sub-products on which the import duties can be hiked. These items are mostly imported from China and can be substituted with local production without much hassles, sources had said earlier.

Imports of these 1,173 items from China were worth $12 billion in FY19, making up for just 2.3% of India’s total imports that year but 17% of New Delhi’s purchases from Beijing.

While the move won’t be Beijing-specific, it will hurt China the most, as it’s the biggest supplier of such low-grade products to India.

However, realising that duty hikes alone won’t deter low-grade imports, the commerce and industry ministry is undertaking a drive to harden a crackdown on such products by formulating standards for 371 key products, in the first phase. These products encompassed imports of about $128 billion, or a fourth of the total purchases from overseas, in FY19. Of these, technical regulations for 150 products have already been firmed up. Imports of these 150 products were to the tune of $47 billion in FY19.

India’s imports rose by more than 10% year-on-year to $514 billion in FY19, although the purchases from overseas contracted by almost 8% in FY20 and close to 40% in the first half of the current fiscal, mirroring demand compression in the economy before and after the Covid-19 outbreak.

However, once the pandemic is behind us, imports are going to rise, exacerbating trade balance once again. A credible plan to curb “non-essential” imports, therefore, comes in handy, according to the sources. Merchandise trade deficit widened from $119 billion, or 18.5% of the overall goods trade, in FY16 to $161 billion (20.4% of such trade) in FY20. This is despite the fact that global oil prices mostly remained within the government’s comfort zone during this period.

WPI inflation rises to 8-month high of 1.48% on pharma, metal prices

Source: Business Standard, Nov 16, 2020

New Delhi: The wholesale price index-based (WPI-based) inflation rate rose for the third straight month to an eight-month high of 1.48 per cent in October from 1.32 per cent in the previous month.

Economists said the WPI data enforced the case for the status quo in the Reserve Bank of India’s policy rates.

Unlike its consumer price index (CPI) counterpart, pressure did not come from food items in general.

These were manufactured products, particularly pharma and metals, that fuelled the WPI inflation rate.

Economists attributed it to a rise in demand due to festivals and after unlockdown was announced for more sectors from September onwards.

The food inflation rate in the WPI came down to 6.37 per cent in October from 8.17 per cent in the previous month.

It rose to 11.07 per cent from 10.68 per cent over the same period in the CPI.

“The rising retail food inflation rate and the declining wholesale food inflation rate are a nightmare for policymakers,” said Devendra Pant, chief economist at India Ratings.

Aditi Nayar, principal economist at ICRA, said the WPI data did not reveal any information that would build the case for a rate cut in December.

“In our view, the Monetary Policy Committee is likely to stay on hold in at least December if not in February too,” she said.

However, within the overall wholesale price food inflation rate, individual items behaved differently.

The WPI inflation rate in vegetables fell to 25.23 per cent from 36.54 per cent. However, onions saw prices increasing in October after a continuous fall for the previous four months.

The rate for onions stood at 8.49 per cent in October against a deflation (fall in prices) rate of 31.64 per cent in the previous month. Prices of potatoes continued to double in October over those of the same month in the previous year.

The inflation rate here rose to 107.70 per cent in October from 107.63 per cent.

Pulses also saw the inflation rate rising from 12.53 per cent in September to 15.93 per cent in October.

Fuel and power saw the deflation rate rising to 10.95 per cent in October from 9.54 per cent in the previous month.

For liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), the inflation rate fell to 2.86 per cent from 3.19 per cent over this period. Both petrol and diesel continued to see a fall in prices.

It was manufactured items, which have the highest weighting of 64 per cent in the WPI, that saw the inflation rate rising to 2.12 per cent from 1.61 per cent over this period.

Pressure came from pharmaceuticals, medicinal chemicals, and botanical products, which witnessed the inflation rate going up to 3.31 per cent from 2.70 per cent. However, the inflation rate in October was less than the 3.40 per cent in August.

The rate for basic metals rose to 5.32 per cent from 3.35 per cent over the period while mild steel and semi-finished steel saw it increasing to 4.85 per cent from 4.06 per cent.

As a result, the core inflation rate (that relates to non-food, non-fuel manufactured products) spiked to 1.7 per cent from 1 per cent during this period, led to a large extent by the base effect, said Nayar.

Pant said an increase in the core inflation rate suggested improvement in demand conditions after Covid-related lockdown was lifted.

“However, it will be too early to term this a general recovery. A large part of this is due to festival-related demand,” he said.

Banks lend over Rs 65,000 crore to commercial sector in a fortnight

Source: Business Standard, Nov 19, 2020

After shrinking in the second half of October, bank credit to commercial sector moved into positive territory in early November as festive season kicked off.

Banks disbursed Rs 65,609 crore of credit in the fortnight ended November 6. In the previous fortnight (October 23, 2020), credit had contracted by Rs 5,983 crore.

The year-on-year growth inched up to 5.8 per cent (November 6, 2020) from 5.2 per cent (October 23, 2020), according to the Reserve Bank of India. The outstanding credit to commercial sector was Rs 110.65 crore as on November 6, slightly higher than Rs 110.38 crore at end of March 2020.