New Delhi: Beef may be having rough days under the BJP government, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China last monthmay have cleared the way for export of the holy meat to the world’s biggest market two years after an agreement was signed. Agri-products such as pomegranate, non-basmati rice and okra could also find their way to China as India steps up efforts to reduce the imbalance in bilateral trade.
Beijing will send an inspection team next month to examine meat plants in India so that the facilities can be cleared for exports. Indian bovine meat and meat products have been denied entry into China on grounds of alleged foot-and-mouth disease.”China’s quarantine inspectors are coming to inspect bovine meat facilities in July, which is two years after the memorandum of understanding was signed. We are hopeful that it will clear the way for our agri exports,” said a government official. “This will help address the issue of trade deficit to some extent, which, if not addressed, could reach unsustainable levels.”
India’s trade deficit with China widened to $48 billion in 2014-15 from $36 billion the previous year.
Taking no chances with the bilateral process, India also questioned China’s decision to continue curbs on Indian buffalo meat imports at an agriculture committee meeting of the World Trade Organization in April. China’s demand for Indian buffalo meat is estimated at about $1.5 billion a year.
India became the world’s top beef exporter last year. Bovine meat overtook basmati rice as the country’s single largest agri export item in 2014-15, posting a 10% growth to $4.79 billion.
China is among the top beef consumers and depends on imports to meet domestic demand. India has also asked China to approve the export clearance process for agri items such as pomegranate, okra, non-basmati rice and cucumber. China recently allowed Indian mangoes, basmati rice, rape seed and oil cakes.
“Chinese are mainly non-basmati rice consumers, with their annual imports ranging between $36-40 billion. So we are asking them to certify our clearance procedures for non-basmati rice. They have said that they will look into it,” said the official.
India wants China to allow 17 farm products that it has restricted citing sanitary and phyto sanitary conditions, also considered non-tariff barriers. “Since mango they have already cleared, we are pushing for pomegranate, okra, grapes and cucumbers in the next lot,” said the official.
Indian fruit and vegetables and non-basmati rice have an export potential worth $1-2 billion annually, according to estimates. India has asked China to expedite export clearance for tobacco, bitter gourd, papaya, guava, brinjal, custard apple, cabbage, capsicum and beans, among others.
India’s exports to China fell almost 20% to $12 billion in 2014-15, while imports rose to $60 billion. According to a foreign trade policy statement issued by India’s department of commerce in April, the trade deficit with China could widen to $60 billion in the next two years if the two countries don’t address market access constraints and non-tariff barriers imposed on Indian goods. India has proposed that exports from packaging units with certification from Indian quarantine authorities be recognised by the Chinese authorities.
India has been strongly pushing for elimination of non-tariff barriers by China in various sectors including agriculture, IT, pharma and auto components.