Agri Business

RCEP talks: Commerce Ministry to take views from dairy-consuming industry

Rutam Vora Ahmedabad | Updated on September 17, 2019 Published on September 17, 2019

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Stakeholders' consultation meet will explore export benefits under RCEP

The Union Commerce Ministry is set to meet members of the dairy consuming-industry to seek their views on whether or not to allow dairy as part of negotiations under Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). This is part of the stakeholders’ consultation process on dairy sector.

The meeting is to be held on Wednesday in New Delhi.

It is learnt from the sources that the Department of Commerce is meeting multinational dairy product players, besides some home grown companies, as well as dairy federations to explore how RCEP can provide an export opportunity for dairy products in high-value-added segments, using imports from the RCEP partners.

The agenda

About 60 top dairy consuming-players including Ferrero, Hersheys, Nestle, Kwality, Unilever, Lotte, Pepsico, besides domestic private players such as Reliance, Havmor, Dinshaw's and some dairy federations have been invited for the meet.

“The agenda of the meet clearly shows it aims to lay the ground for allowing dairy imports under RCEP talks. While it aims to discuss issues of price and product differentiation, it appears that it will primarily focus on the consumption side of the dairy industry, than the production side. The agenda is silent on safeguarding interests of milk producers and dairy farmers,” said an industry source in the know of the meeting.

Earlier on July 22, the Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal met dairy sector players in context of RCEP negotiations in Mumbai. The Minister, dairy players claimed that the Minister said that the government will not venture into anything that will harm interests of the dairy farmers.

Many concerns

It is feared that latest meeting scheduled in New Delhi, looks to further build a case for allowing cheap and duty-free imports of dairy products from surplus producers such as New Zealand and Australia.

“There is a fear among the industry that discussions with consuming-industry will only lead to exploring ways for cheaper inputs through imports. Consuming companies may benefit, but it will cause massive job-losses in dairy farming, and will ruin the decades of efforts went into building the robust dairy structure in the country,” a private player, who has received an invitation for the meeting, told BusinessLine.

Earlier cooperatives and private dairies had raised their concerns during the meeting with Goyal stating that allowing cheaper imports from surplus countries will destroy the livelihood of the millions in the dairy farming. They will be forced to quit the sector because cheaper imports may reduce their incomes by half.

Recently, apex dairy body, National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) had also expressed its view to keep dairy sector out of the purview of RCEP negotiations to safeguard the interests of small and marginal farmers.

Published on September 17, 2019
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