Indian importers from China facing coronavirus heat; to discuss problems with govt

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on March 02, 2020

Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal

Commerce Minister to meet industry, export councils today to discuss both challenges and opportunities

Businesses that have been adversely affected by the deadly coronavirus, with its epicentre in China, will share their problems and experiences with the Commerce Ministry in a meeting chaired by Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal on Tuesday.

“The meeting will focus on the required strategy to deal with the situation, both as a challenge and opportunity,” a government official told BusinessLine.

The meeting, chaired by Goyal, will be attended by both the industry as well as senior officials from the Commerce and Industry Ministry including the Directorate-General of Foreign Trade (DGFT).

“The Minister has especially instructed various industry bodies to identify businesses that have been majorly affected by the on-going global disruption and include them in the meeting,” the official said.

China was India’s top-most import source in 2018-19 with total imports at $70.39 billion. The country was also India’s third largest export destination with outbound shipments valued at $16.5 billion.

While on one hand the slowdown in the Chinese economy could be an opportunity for Indian exporters to supply more in the global market, what is of greater significance at the moment is the disruption faced by several Indian manufacturers in the telecom, mobile phones and pharmaceuticals sectors that are dependent on inputs from China.

In the April-December 2019 period, India imported electronic components worth $ 4.9 billion and telecom instruments worth $ 4.5 billion which accounted for 40 per cent of the country’s total imports of the two items. Computer hardware imports from China were worth $3.5 billion in the nine-month period into India, while it imported a considerable volume of active pharmaceuticals ingredients (API) as well as fertilisers.

“Some of the imports from China are critical for sectors such as telecom, electronics and certain drugs including antibiotics. If there is shortfall in supplies from China, then alternative sources have to be explored,” the official said.

The Commerce Minister also held a meeting with the industry on February 14, but the situation has changed considerably since then. The novel coronavirus has killed over 3,000 people worldwide and more than 88,000 global cases have been reported.

The Commerce Ministry is also identifying items where Indian manufacturers can increase their exports to fill the gap left by Chinese producers. As per an initial study there are more than 500 products where Indian exporters can plug global supply gaps.

Published on March 02, 2020

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