Food Processing Ministry launches PM FME scheme to help micro-food processing enterprises

Source: The Hindu Business Line, Jun 29, 2020

In line with the Centre’s ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’ initiative, the Ministry for Food Processing has launched the PM Formalisation of Micro Food Processing Enterprises (PM FME) scheme with an outlay of ₹10,000 crore.

The scheme, launched on Monday, will assist nearly 2 lakh micro-food processing enterprises with credit-linked subsidy and special focus will be on supporting farmer producers organisations, self-help groups and cottage industries in rural and tribal regions, over the next five years.

The expenditure under the scheme would to be shared in 60:40 ratio between the Central and State governments and in 90:10 ratio with North Eastern and Himalayan States.

One district, one product

Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal said, “The Ministry will adopt the ‘One District One Product (ODOP)’ approach and focus on scaling up existing clusters. States will be given complete flexibility in deciding what product needs to be promoted and from which districts,” she added.

These could be perishable or cereal based products such as mango, potato, litchi, tomato, poultry or millet-based products.

Speaking at the launch of the scheme in a virtual event, she said, that there as many as 25 lakh such unorganised small food processing units.

“Nearly 66 per cent of these units are located in villages and about 80 per cent of them are family owned. They face various challenges such as lack of access to institutional credit, to modern technology, do not have requisite marketing and branding skills and lack awareness about quality control,” she added.

“We hope to address these challenges through the launch of this scheme and enable them scale up their businesses in line with the ‘Vocal for Local’ initiative. We believe this will also catapult this sector by bringing unorganised micro food processing units to the organised sector,” Badal added.

The Ministry believes the scheme will generate investments of ₹35,000 crore and help create 9 lakh skilled and semi-skilled jobs.

Operation Greens scheme expanded

The Ministry has also formally announced the expansion of Operation Greens scheme from tomato, onion and potato crops to all perishable fruits and vegetables. Under this scheme, 50 per cent subsidy will be provided for six months for transportation of eligible crops from production clusters to consumption centres and for hiring storage for three months.

“Though we are formally launching this scheme now, we have already got more than 100 applicants for this scheme through the Ministry’s portal,” the Minister added. Badal added that the Ministry is also starting 41 free e-learning certification courses for SC and ST entrepreneurs in the food processing sector.

Centre allows ‘restricted’ exports of PPE coveralls

Source: The Hindu Business Line, Jun 29, 2020

New Delhi: The Centre has removed the prohibition on the export of medical coveralls for Covid-19, allowing up to 50 lakh units to be exported every month against licences issued by the government.

While the move is in response to demands made by local producers of personal protection equipment (PPE) who had assured the government of surplus capacities, the domestic industry says that exports of N-95 masks, too, should be allowed.

As per a notification issued by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) on Monday, PPE medical coveralls have been shifted to the restricted category from the prohibited category. “A monthly quote of 50 lakh PPE medical coveralls for Covid-19 units has been fixed for issuance of export licences to the eligible applicants….as per the criteria to be separately issued in a Trade Notice,” the notification stated.

All items that are part of PPE kits and listed in the earlier notifications continue to remain “prohibited” for export, whether exported as individual items or as part of PPE kits, it added.

The monthly quota will not be applicable on these items.

Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC) Chairman A Sakthivel on Monday thanked the government for lifting the ban on PPE exports. The monthly quota of 50 lakh will not only help health workers across the world but also support the revival of the apparel industry in the country, he said.

“This opens the entire global market for our domestic players who were fast enough to seize this opportunity of producing and supplying PPE kits as the world struggles to control the coronavirus pandemic,” said Sakthivel in an official release. The production of PPE is more than sufficient to cater to the needs of the country, the statement added.

The government should soon extend the export opportunity for N-95 masks as well, Sakthivel said, adding that the size of the global market for PPEs is more than $60 billion over the next five years.

Global competition

“India is in competition with countries like Bangladesh, Indonesia and Pakistan, as they have lifted the ban on PPE exports and are receiving huge orders from large buyers in the US and Europe,” he said.

From zero production of PPEs early March, the country now produces more than 8 lakh pieces per day — the second largest producing country in the world, as per AEPC figures.

Digital strike: India bans 59 Chinese mobile apps on security threat

Source: Business Standard, Jun 30, 2020

Mumbai: India has banned 59 Chinese mobile apps, including the popular SHAREit, TikTok, UC Browser, and SHEIN, citing them to be a security threat. The government invoked its powers under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act and relevant provisions under IT Rules 2009 to block these apps, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) said on Monday.

The move did not come as a surprise as it comes in the backdrop of stand-off along the Line of Actual control in Ladakh with Chinese troops. Other popular apps on the ban list include Club Factory, Helo, and CamScanner. The ministry said it had received complaints about the misuse of some mobile apps available on the Android and iOS platforms “for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting user data” in an unauthorised manner to servers located outside India. The Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre and the Home Ministry, who had had earlier sent an exhaustive recommendation on the apps to be blocked, were consulted on this issue, the MeitY statement said.

“The government believes these are data-mining apps that compromise the user’s data and national security,” said Salman Waris, managing partner at New Delhi-based specialist technology law firm TechLegis Advocates & Solicitors. “The next move could be the Department of Telecom asking internet service providers to block IP addresses and access to these apps.”

Waris said the sentiment could hamper the flow of Chinese capital into Indian start-ups. The government had in April amended the foreign direct investment (FDI) policy, saying that an entity of a country, which shared a land border with India, can only invest through the government route.

Blaise Fernandes, director, Gateway House, said there were essentially four types of Chinese apps in India — economic, service oriented, vanity, and strategic. “The Digital India story is globally tracked. Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent are part of the digital ‘Silk Route’ of China.

The ban of the 59 Chinese apps in India will negatively impact the valuations of these apps and their respective promoters,” Fernandes said. The official referred to the upcoming IPO of TikTok and said: “Almost 30 per cent of its user base comes from India. This (ban) will impact TikTok’s valuations negatively.”

However, most home-grown start-ups and Confederation of All India Traders welcomed the move. The CAIT said it was a “big support” to its “Boycott Chinese Goods” campaign. Berges Malu, director (public policy) at ShareChat, a social media start-up, said: “This is a welcome move against platforms that have had serious privacy, cyber-security and national security risks.”

Odisha Govt approves investment proposals worth Rs 608.79 crore

Source: Business Standard, Jun 30, 2020

The Odisha government on Monday approved five investment proposals worth Rs 608.79 crore in sectors like Metal, Food Processing, and Logistics & Infrastructure, which may generate employment for 1,496 people in the state.

In a meeting chaired by Chief Secretary Asit Kumar Tripathy, the investment proposals were approved at a State Level Single Window Clearance Authority (SLSWCA).

As per the Industrial Promotion and Investment Corporation of Odisha (IPICOL), the approved projects includes Metal Downstream sector, Iron Ore plant, Pellet Plant, among others.

According to the press release, “In a big boost to the State’s metal downstream sector, Reliable Sponge Pvt. Limited is looking at setting up an Iron ore beneficiation plant of 2.5 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) and Pellet Plant of 2.0 MTPA, with an investment of Rs 250 crore and providing employment to about 250 people.”

“Whereas Growel Feeds Pvt. Limited will be setting up a Shrimp/Prawn feed and fish feed manufacturing facility, with an investment of Rs 65.82 crore of capacity providing employment opportunities for 700 people

In the logistics and infrastructure sector. Another investor, Sravan Shipping Services Pvt. Ltd. will be setting up a logistics park at Jadupur village of Kendrapada District, with a total investment of Rs 100 crore and employing around additional 250 people,” stated the release. The proposal of Chilika Distilleries Pvt. Limited to set up 110 KL per day grain-based distillery plant, with an investment of Rs 99.97 crore and will provide additional employment opportunities for 170 people. SOM Distilleries and Breweries Odisha Pvt. limited is looking at setting up 120 KLPD capacity distillery (Grain-based) unit, with an investment of Rs 93 crore and it will provide additional employment opportunities for 126 people, it added.

Oracle sets up second cloud region in India to take on Amazon, Microsoft

Source: Business Standard, Jun 29, 2020

Bengaluru: Oracle, one of the world’s biggest technology companies, is increasing its investments in India, which is becoming its major battleground to take on rivals Amazon, Microsoft and Google and dominate cloud computing services. The Redwood City-, California-based firm has announced its second Cloud region in India in Hyderabad. The firm is betting big to sell its cloud technology to Indian businesses, the government and start-ups to unlock innovation and drive business growth.

“India is one of the few countries in the world that has got two (such) cloud regions. That’s a big thing and the reflection of Oracle’s commitment to India and the fact that there is a growing cloud business for us here,” said Sriram Rajan, vice president – Cloud (India) at Oracle. “India is going to be a very important market for Oracle globally. Our customers are running in thousands and we have doubled our customer base over the last four year.”

The opening of the new facility follows the launch of its Mumbai Cloud region in 2019. Oracle said the new region makes India the company’s latest country with multiple cloud regions available and capability to effectively meet the increasing demand for secure and stable enterprise cloud services. Oracle said it will provide enterprise customers in India better performance, pricing, and security based on its second-generation cloud. With this launch, India joins the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, South Korea, and the European Union in having multiple Oracle Cloud regions that facilitate enterprise-class disaster recovery strategies.

“With Oracle opening dual cloud regions in Australia, Japan, Korea and now India, we are further renewing our commitment to support growth in the new decade,” said Garrett Ilg, executive vice president, Japan and Asia Pacific, Oracle.

Oracle said its unique dual region strategy enables customers to deploy resilient applications in multiple independent cloud regions for disaster recovery – without having sensitive data leave the country. The firm said it is thereby complying with regulatory requirements around data sovereignty as well as operational issues associated with operating in multiple countries.

“A large number of Indian organizations are looking to change growth orbits with a greater focus on cloud-led innovation,” said Shailender Kumar, regional managing director, Oracle India. “With two Oracle Cloud regions live in India, we’re fully geared to support our 15000 plus customers in their innovation journey, with adequate support by nearly 1000 specialized Oracle partners.”

Oracle competes with global rivals, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, and Google, to dominate cloud computing services.

In India, Oracle provides its technology to customers including Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited, Manappuram Finance and Indian Oil Corporation Limited. It also counts Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) Pilani, HDFC Bank and government’s policy think tank Niti Aayog among its customers.

“Oracle continues powering a large number of our citizen-centric services,” said Jayesh Ranjan, principal secretary, industries & commerce (I&C) and information technology (IT), Government of Telangana. “This (new cloud region) will surely help both public and private enterprises in our state to take advantage of Oracle cloud services.”

According to a report by technology research firm Canalys, cloud infrastructure services spending worldwide hit yet another record at $31.0 billion in the first quarter of 2020, growing at 34 per cent year-on-year. It said growth was driven by organisations around the world moving to remote working owing to the pandemic. As a result, enterprises sought rapid access to compute resources in the face of lockdowns and disruption. A surge in demand for online collaboration tools, e-commerce, and consumer cloud services drove sharp increases in cloud infrastructure consumption, benefiting all major cloud providers, the report added.

Rishu Sharma, principal analyst, cloud and artificial Intelligence at research firm IDC India said now as Indian enterprises start their journey towards getting back onto the growth track, they will look first for locally-based cloud infrastructure and services providers. The providers would be chosen based on the ability to provide low latency, in-country services to access data and its data management and analysis, bullet-proof security and interoperable cloud environments.

“A provider that can fulfil these demands and complies with the data sovereignty laws of the country will be viewed as a partner of choice,” said Sharma. “By the addition of this second cloud region, Oracle has enhanced its position in the Indian market with increased capacity to meet customer demands for cloud services that deliver resilient digital infrastructure.”

Government gives nod for standardisation in vehicle dimensions as per global norms

Source: The Economic Times, Jun 29, 2020

New Delhi: To improve logistics efficiency in the country, the government has given nod to increase the dimension of motor vehicles including buses, trailers and good carriers at par with global standards.

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has come out with a notification in this regard to amend Rule-93 relating to dimensions of motor vehicles under the Central Motor Vehicle Rules 1989.

“These amendments would provide for standardization in the dimensions of the Motor Vehicles which would be in line with international standards and a step by the Ministry to improve the logistics efficiency in the country,” the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways said.

It further added that the enhanced dimensions would provide for extra passengers or extra carrying capacity within the prescribed weight.

As per the amendments, two-wheelers can have a length of maximum 4 meter and height of 2.5 meter.

Three-wheelers height has been increased from 2.2 meter to 2.5 meter and Pneumatic trailer through this notification has been made at par with Modular Hydraulic Trailer. “Road trains with length at par with EU at 25.25 mtrs have been proposed to be included on select routes,” as per the notification which also said that the dimension, particularly the height of the N category (goods vehicles) vehicles has been amended to encourage containerised transport.

“The dimensions, particularly the height of the M category vehicles has been amended from 3.8 meter to 4.0 meter except in the case of Airport passenger bus (retained at 3.8 meter), in line with international UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) standards,” as per the notification.

The length of the buses with two axles has been amended from 12 meter to 13.5 meter.

“In case of N category of goods vehicles, height has been amended from 3.8 meter to 4.0 meter except in case of N1 category of vehicles where the height has been restricted to 3.0 meter,” the notification said.

The length of the Trailers (T category) has been amended from 18.0 meter to 18.75 meter to accommodate ISO standards containers of 45 feet. The height of the trailer is amended from 3.8 meter to 4.0 meter with certain exceptions.

Semi trailers carrying ISO series/ freight containers or fabricated/ refrigerated containers or with containerized body shall not exceed 4.52 meter, it said.

In case of truck-trailers/ tractor-trailer engaged by auto manufacturers to carry motor vehicles/ construction equipment motor vehicle/livestock/white goods with closed body or meant to carry indivisible loads, the overall height of the motor vehicle shall not exceed 4.75 meter, the government said. NAM NAM DRR DRR.

Govt approves additional Rs 1,691 cr for highway works in J&K, Uttarakhand

Source: Business Standard, Jun 28, 2020

New Delhi: The government has approved an additional Rs 1,691 crore for highway works by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) in Jammu & Kashmir and Uttarakhand for 2020-21.

Of this, Rs 1,351.10 crore has been sanctioned to BRO for road works in Jammu & Kashmir, the road transport and highways ministry said in a communication to Border Roads Development Board (BRDB) Director General Lt Gen Harpal Singh.

A total of Rs 340 crore ceiling has been approved for Uttarakhand for national highways, according to the communication dated June 24.

In addition, it has also given nod for additional sanction of Rs 71 crore for highway works by the state’s Public Works Department in Jammu & Kashmir, Ladakh, Sikkim and Tamil Nadu,

Besides, it has also enhanced the total ceiling to Rs 1,955 crore for highways work for Nagaland under Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) from the existing Rs 1,081 crore.

“Competent authority has approved the additional sanction ceiling for NH(O) works for the year 2020-21 to states /UTs of Jammu & Kashmir, Ladakh, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tamil Nadu for state PWDs and for state/ UT of Jammu & Kashmir and Uttarakhand for BRO,” the communication said.

It said that the existing sanction for national highways (original) work for state PWDs was Rs 2,269 crore, which has been raised to Rs 2,340 crore. In addition, Rs 1,691 crore ceiling was approved for BRO, taking the additional ceiling of Rs 4,081 crore for national highways in these areas.

“For NH(O)-General projects for state govt/UTs, 20 per cent of the sanction ceiling has been proposed for cross drainage works. Sanction of damaged cross drainage work may be given topmost priority,” the communication said.

Widening of national highways (NHs) and their strengthening under the annual plan 2020-21 may be suitably finalised by project zones in consultation with additional DG/ DG (road development) and special secretary, it said.

“Efforts may be made to award all the sanctioned works under spillover/ balance sanction ceiling and additional sanction ceiling already given and at least 50 per cent of sanctioned works under instant additional sanction ceiling,” it added.

Earlier, National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL) enhanced the remuneration of its personnel working in tough terrains.

NHIDCL, a fully-owned company of the Government of India, under the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, is engaged in building, maintaining and upgrading national highways and strategic roads, including interconnecting roads in parts of the country which share international boundaries with neighbouring countries. The roads are built in difficult terrain under inhospitable and hostile weather conditions and other environmental factors.

CBIC extends validity of e-way bills in new set of relaxations

Source: The Economic Times, Jun 28, 2020

The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) extended the end-date till August 31 for several relaxations including issuance of order and appeals by tax authorities, including in case of refunds, and extended the validity of e-way bills issued before lockdown till September 30.

In notifications issued on Saturday, the Board further extended the time limit, till August 31, for authorities to issue orders or notices in case of rejection of full or partial refund claims.

“for the words, figures and letters 29th day of June 2020, the words, figures and letters “30th day of August 2020” shall be substituted; and for the words, figures and letters “30th day of June 2020”, the words, figures, and letters “31st day of August 2020” shall be substituted,” the Board said in one of the notifications, referring to an earlier notification dated June 9.

Separately, the Board also extended the due date of compliance related to assessment procedures, notices, orders, filing of appeals and replies among others, for authorities and tribunals – falling between March 20, and June 29, to June 30 – till August 31.

The Board also extended the validity of e-way bills till September 30, which were set to expire during the period of March 20 and April 15, issued before the lockdown period. This would be the third extension granted by the Board, which was first given till May-end and then till June-end, and would help in faster transportation of goods within the country.

Indian economy in deep trouble: S&P

Source: The Economic Times, Jun 26, 2020

NEW DELHI: S&P Global Ratings on Friday said Indian economy is in deep trouble with growth expected to contract by 5 per cent this fiscal.

“India’s economy is in deep trouble. Difficulties in containing the virus, an anemic policy response, and underlying vulnerabilities, especially across the financial sector, are leading us to expect growth to fall by 5 per cent this fiscal year before rebounding in 2021,” S&P said in a report.

In its report titled ‘Asia-Pacific losses near USD 3 trillion as balance sheet recession looms’, S&P projected the region’s economy to shrink by 1.3 per cent in 2020, but grow by 6.9 per cent in 2021.

This implies a loss nearing USD 3 trillion output over these two years.

“Asia-Pacific has shown some success in containing COVID-19 and, by and large, responded with effective macroeconomic policies,” said Shaun Roache, chief economist for Asia-Pacific at S&P Global Ratings.

“This can help cushion the blow and provide a bridge to the recovery. The recovery looks set to be weighed down by indebted balance sheets, however.” One risk now looming larger is yet another “balance sheet recession” in which at least one important sector of the economy — the government, firms, or households — tries to bolster its weak financial position by saving more, paying down debt, and spending less, S&P said.

“The downturn caused by COVID-19 did not start as a balance-sheet recession but may end up as one,” Roache said. “This means less investment, a slower recovery, and a permanent hit to the economy that will last even after a vaccine is found.”

The pandemic caused a sudden stop in activity and to prevent a collapse, policymakers, helped by banks, have provided extraordinary financial support to firms and households.

Banks may lend less than they normally would in a recovery to focus on the overhang from the pandemic. Private firms may prefer to stabilize debt rather than ramp up spending on new investments, even though demand is improving.

S&P Global Ratings kept its forecasts for growth in Chinese economy at 1.2 per cent and 7.4 per cent for 2020 and 2021, respectively.

The economy is healing but private sector confidence remains fragile. If private sector spending does not improve quickly, more stimulus may be unleashed, S&P said.

Import curbs may hit domestic automakers

Source: LiveMint.com, Jun 25, 2020

NEW DELHI: For the Indian automobile industry, jumping on the anti-China bandwagon will not be easy as certain spare parts, sourced from the Asian neighbour, are critical for manufacturing of BS-VI emission norm compliant vehicles.

With the advent of new stringent emission norms and connected features in vehicles, manufacturers need catalytic convertors, fuel injection systems and other such electronic parts based on semiconductors which are not manufactured in India, and also the ones available in China are cost competitive.

Not surprisingly, in February when factories in China were shut following the coronavirus outbreak, Indian vehicle manufacturers like Hero MotoCorp Ltd, TVS Motor Company Ltd, Tata Motors Ltd, Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd and others had scale down production due to shortage of imported spare parts.

With relations between the two countries souring, most automakers are now looking at ways to locally manufacture some of these critical spare parts. However, these could take up to five years to see results.

“A lot of electronic parts which go into a car cannot be made in India. Those are not available in India but I cannot complete a car without those parts…We should now look at how to improve the quality and cost of Indian products,” said RC Bhargava, chairman, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd.

While there is a significant dependence on China for internal combustion engine driven vehicles, the country’s is crucial for spare parts of electric vehicles.

Most lithium-ion batteries and cells, and electric motors are imported from China.

According to Rajesh Menon, director general, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, the Indian automobile industry was pushed into upgrading to BS VI emission norms in just three years which did not allow for building of domestic supply chains.

“As the technology to meet BS VI emissions is high-end, the industry had no option but to work with global suppliers. Some parts being capital intensive, it did not make commercial sense to manufacture and source from India. Global suppliers of these parts have capacities in China and sourcing from China made commercial sense. All this led to dependence on China,” added Menon.

“Any tariff or non-tariff barriers to import would push OEMs for localisation of these components in the long term. While we have seen localisation drives in components like alloy wheels over the last few years, we still do not have the requisite scale/skills in certain segments like electrical and semiconductors,” said analysts at Motilal Oswal Financial Services in a report on 23 June.

Indian automobile manufacturers leapfrogged from Bharat Stage IV emission norms to stage VI within just three years, as the Indian government wanted to reduce vehicular emissions to curb pollution in major cities and towns.

According to a senior executive in an Indian auto maker, manufacturing cost will increase if India raises tariffs on import of some components since sourcing countries other than China will be more expensive. “The Indian auto companies will take at least 3-5 years to establish domestic sourcing of critical spare parts since the demand forecast for the domestic market is quite subdued. For global manufacturers to set up a base in India will only make sense if the domestic market can generate volumes. Otherwise how will any company convince them to manufacture these parts in India,” said the executive requesting anonymity.