Health Minister Mandaviya to visit Russia for economic meet

India to participate in biggest Russian trade meet likely to be launched by President Vladimir Putin.

June 14, 2022 04:18 pm | Updated 05:38 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Union Minister  Mansukh Mandaviya. File

Union Minister Mansukh Mandaviya. File | Photo Credit: Vijay Soneji

India will participate in the biggest Russian trade meet that is expected to be launched by President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday. 

The Indian delegation for St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) is to be led by Minister of Health and Family Welfare and Chemical and Fertilisers Mansukh Mandaviya and the focus will be on fertiliser and potash supplies as India rushes to ensure uninterrupted fertiliser supply in the kharif season.

Potash supply was hit in February as Western sanctions targeted Russia, the leading supplier of potash in the global market.

 This will be the 25th edition of the SPIEF and will take place from June 15 to 18. Egypt will be the guest country this year. In 2017, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the chief guest at the meet.

At the inauguration, Mr. Putin is expected to deliver a major speech on the new economic orientation of Russia since the “special military operation” began in Ukraine on February 24.

Unused commodities

The Russian economy was hit by Western sanctions as the war in Ukraine began, leaving Russia with unused supplies of commodities that in normal circumstances would have been exported to the European markets. Russia currently holds surplus food grains, lentils, spices such as coriander, iron and steel, minerals, fertilisers, timber and papers and other commodities and is looking for access to new markets in the Global South.

India has increased purchase of Russian crude as Moscow has been offering hydrocarbons at a steep discount. Commodities traders in the Indian capital have observed that Moscow is offering items at a price not found elsewhere.

‘Great opportunity’

“SPIEF offers a great opportunity for Indian business class to explore the Russian production centres as the world is facing a commodities shock,” said Rameshwar Singh, head of DISHA, India-Russia Friendship Society in Moscow, adding, “Russia has large-scale stocks of many items that India and other developing markets may find attractive.”

The SPIEF this year also coincides with a crucial phase in the war which has seen North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speak openly about the “negotiated settlement” as the Ukrainian forces are facing growing difficulty in dealing with the Russian campaign.

The ongoing battle at Severodonetsk has left the Ukrainian forces isolated, with Russia gaining an upper hand in the overall battle scenario. Severodonetsk is a symbolic matter for Ukraine as this is the last part of the eastern Ukraine that Kyiv holds control at present, and losing the city would be a turning point in the war.

In its previous episodes, the SPIEF used to attract large number of European and also north American participants. But that is unlikely this year because of the sanctions. This means India, China, and other Asian and African countries will be in focus.

Focus on fertilisers

The Indian delegation, sources said, will focus on securing fertiliser supplies from Russia. The war in Ukraine has disrupted its supply, creating volatility in the food and agriculture markets. One of the main reasons for this official focus on fertilisers is the disruption in the supply of potash, which is a key component in fertilisers of which Russia is a leading producer. As India enters the monsoon season and the kharif cultivation, there is a need to ensure steady supply of potash by the end of this summer.

Last month, a high-level delegation led by Dr. Mandaviya visited Jordan from May 13 to 15, with the objective of securing fertilisers and raw materials, both for short and long term.

“This strategically important visit came in the backdrop of the ongoing global fertiliser crisis,’’ said the Ministry. The Minister said that the Jordan visit proved to be path-breaking in terms of ensuring supply of phosphatic and potassic fertilisers to India.

“MoUs were signed with Jordan Phosphate Mining Company for supplies of 30 LMT rock phosphate, 2.50 LMT DAP, 1 LMT phosphoric acid for the current year with the Indian public, cooperative and private sector companies. India has also signed a long-term MoU for five years with Jordan for annual supplies of 2.75 LMT of MoP which will uniformly increase every year up to 3.25 LMT,’’ he added. “These supplies will be crucial for assured fertiliser supply for the ensuing cropping seasons in India”, the Union Minister said.

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