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New Delhi, Feb. 16

THE Union Minister for Commerce and Industry, Mr.Kamal Nath, contended that the share of agricultural exports in the country's aggregate exports must be stepped up substantially from its extant level of a little over 10 per cent.

Presiding over the meeting of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee attached to his Ministry, the Minister said that the value of agro-exports from India in absolute terms had increased phenomenally, having gone up to $8 billion an increase of 70 per cent in just five years from a level of $5.6 billion 1999-2000. During the first seven months of the current fiscal, agricultural exports stood at $4.8 billion compared with a little over $4 billion in the same period last year.

Outlining the Government's perspective on agricultural export promotion policy, Mr Nath said that the objectives include doubling India's share in the world agricultural trade within five years, focussing on generation of additional employment in rural areas, increasing farm income and promoting rural development.

The Minister singled out the measures being pursued by the Government to secure market access for Indian agricultural and processed foods in the face of touch sanitary and phyto-sanitary requirements in various countries. As a result of these efforts, "We have succeeded in opening market access for mangoes, bitter gourd and grapes. Similarly, Japan has recently opened its market for poultry products. Market access for Indian meat in Saudi Arabia has also been secured. Intensive efforts are under way to get market access for Indian mangoes to Japan, USA and Australia," Mr Nath said. Mr Jairam Ramesh and Dr Ashwani Kumar, Ministers of State for Commerce & Industry also took part in the meeting.

Efforts were being made to increase exports of tobacco to Russia, while premium Indian brands such as basmati rice were being defended in the global market, the Minister said, adding that a new brand of Indian spices called "Flavorit" had also been successfully launched in the US recently. These efforts would lead to higher exports of top-end agricultural products from India, thereby vastly improving the income of farmers, Mr Nath said.

Members suggested that Government should publish information on export potential of different agricultural crops, vegetables and fruits so that entrepreneurs and farmers could benefit. Mr Nath said that proper post-harvest infrastructure was vital if India has to take a quantum jump in her share of world's agri export trade. Members further suggested that a coordination committee should be set up that could take inter-Ministerial issues such as logistics, credit, customs clearances so that the hurdles in agri exports might be tackled promptly.

All members were unanimous about the need for massive investment in agri export infrastructure such as setting up of cold chains, procurement/auction centres etc., an official release said here.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated February 17, 2006)
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