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Agri. export zones essential as India ranks low in global trade: Assocham
Thursday, 21 July, 2011, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Our Bureau, New Delhi
ASSOCHAM (Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India) has said that agriculture export zones (AEZs) deserve a boost by policy- makers and the private sector as India ranks dismally low in global trade despite being a major producer of agriculture products.

With food and agriculture exports totalling $15.6 billion, India's share is a meager 1.6 per cent of the global trade. The trade index by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations positions India's exports in quantity terms at 222nd place and in value terms at 237th place.

Agriculture and related activities account for employment to 60 per cent of the population in the country, 19 per cent of the GDP and nine per cent of total exports, the body said. "It is critical to have consistency in export promotion policies," informed D S Rawat, secretary-general, ASSOCHAM. "The focus should be on commodities where India has marketable surplus and competitive strength in global markets," he added.

The country produced 90 million tonnes of rice last year, over 80 million tonnes of wheat, 34 million tonnes of coarse cereals, 15 million tonnes of pulses, 25 million tonnes of oilseeds and 278 million tonnes of sugarcane.

India is the largest producer of fresh fruits and vegetables, and ranks as the second in production of cashew, cabbage, cotton seed, garlic, cardamom, onions, sugarcane, tomatoes, coconut, groundnut, tea, green peas, cauliflower, potatoes and inland fish.

Total investments in AEZs across 20 states so far have been worth Rs 1,098 crore with exports valued at Rs 10,690 crore. "Indian exporters have not succeeded in establishing direct linkages with consumers in importing countries," said Rawat. "A large proportion of exports are being further processed and re-exported by other countries," he added.

He said that the agriculture sector had vast opportunity for employment generation and trade. There is need to have a long-term sustainable policy which attracts more investments and increases private sector's participation in remote rural areas, according to Rawat.

"The government should introduce fresh initiatives to boost post-harvest and processing technologies so that farmers can get good returns." The AEZ concept has the potential to improve agriculture output and quality besides reducing post-harvest losses and upgrade of technology, farmers' skills and income. "It can result in development of internationally competitive production base and increased private investments, leading to increased employment and overall economic development," he said.
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