COVID-19 outbreak could help agri exports: Agriculture Ministry analysis

Ministry marks 21 products wherein India can grab part of China’s market share

March 09, 2020 10:29 pm | Updated March 10, 2020 09:43 am IST - NEW DELHI

Chinese checkers: Among the 21 products in which India is capable of providing alternatives to China are chillis. Reuters

Chinese checkers: Among the 21 products in which India is capable of providing alternatives to China are chillis. Reuters

In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak , the Centre has identified 21 agricultural products, including honey, potatoes, grapes, soya beans and groundnuts, in which Indian exports could benefit from trade restrictions against Chinese goods.

The total value of China’s global exports of these products amounted to $5488.6 million in 2018. India exported $4,445.9 million worth of these commodities in the same period and could now have a chance to grab part of China’s market share.

Also read | Viral economies: On coronavirus impact

“There may be opportunities for Indian exporters of agri-items, in case some countries impose restrictions on Chinese goods in response to outbreak of COVID-19. Opportunities may arise in case of other countries imposing import restriction on these tariff lines,” said an analysis of the impact of the virus outbreak on India’s agricultural trade, prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.

The report was submitted to the Finance Ministry last week, as part of a wider exercise to analyse the disruptions in global supply chains due to the COVID-19 crisis and chart a government response. Supply shortages and trade restrictions have already had a harsh impact on China’s total exports, which dropped more than 17% in January and February, in comparison to the previous year. Chinese imports fell 4% in the same period.

“There are 21 agri tariff lines where China’s global exports and India’s global exports are more than $25 million and where India is price and volume-wise competitive and capable to provide an alternative,” said the Agriculture Ministry analysis, seen by The Hindu .

Some of these products include natural honey, onions and shallots, chillis, potatoes, vegetables, guavas, mangoes, grapes, tamarinds, cashew apples, lychees, black fermented tea, spices, groundnuts, soyabeans, paddy, sesamum seeds, vegetable seeds for sowing and plants used in perfumery or pharmacy. Major markets which currently buy these products from China include Vietnam, USA, Japan, U.K., Philippines, Malaysia, Russia and Korea.

‘Won’t affect us’

The Agriculture Ministry has also said that the impact of the virus outbreak on import of agri items from China “may not affect us to an extent that may lead to any crisis”. India imported agriculture items worth $109.74 million from China in 2018-19, with seven products, including kidney beans, bamboo, cassia, fresh grapes, live plants and plums and sloes, accounting for 84% of that.

“The import of these items are likely to get impacted in case of supply disruption occurs in wake of COVID-19. However, it may be noted that out of the top seven items, only two items – bamboo and kidney beans – are imported in bulk from China in the sense that they respectively represent 35.5% and 41.2% import from China out of India’s total imports from the world,” the analysis stated. In the case of those two items, India is still striving for self-sufficiency through the Bamboo Mission and the National Food Security Mission.

With regard to Indian exports to China, two items — cotton linter and mango pulp — may get impacted, as they are used as raw material by China for further processing and then export. Apart from these two, most major items are used for domestic consumption in China and may not be too badly hit, said the Ministry analysis. India exported agricultural items worth $191 million to China during 2018-19, including capsicum, isabgol and cumin seeds.

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