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Kerala Govt thinking big on export front

Our Bureau

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, Dec. 2

THE feelgood factor provided by an across-the-board rise in commodity exports relative to the 2001-02 financial year has emboldened the Kerala Government to think big on the export front and devise a new growth strategy founded on the Assistance to States for Infrastructure Development for Exports (ASIDE) scheme.

Speaking to newspersons on the new initiative, the Industries Minister, Mr P.K. Kunhalikkutty, said that the State Government is actively considering ways to make maximum use of the ASIDE scheme under which the State has already been granted Rs 16.5 crore for the current year.

The State Government is planning to crystallise a number of initiatives in the food processing and allied sectors in the run-up to the Global Investors' Meet (GIM) to be held in January.

Food products have been identified as the bulwark of the new export strategy and efforts are on to devise a single brand and to coin a slogan for food products being sourced from the geographical region.

For starters, the State intends to latch on to the ASIDE scheme to announce its arrival on States' export front.

ASIDE's objective is to involve the States in the export effort by providing assistance to State Governments for creating appropriate infrastructure for development and growth of exports.

The approved purposes of the scheme are creation of new export promotion industrial parks and zones and augmenting facilities at the existing ones, setting up of electronic and other related infrastructure in export conclave, equity participation in infrastructure projects, including the setting up of SEZs.

A State-level Export Promotion Committee (SLEPC) has been set up in Kerala as part of the efforts aimed at optimising the utilisation of resources and achieving the objectives of export growth through a co-ordinated effort of the Central and the State Governments.

The SLEPC will be headed by the Chief Secretary and will comprise Secretaries of departments concerned, a representative of the State cell of the Department of Commerce (DoC) and the Joint Director General of Foreign Trade posted in the State/region.

The Secretary (Industries) has been designated as Export Commissioner and convenor of SLEPC. The DoC will interact with him on issues pertaining to the ASIDE scheme.

SLEPC will scrutinise and approve specific projects and monitor the implementation of export promotion schemes jointly taken up by the States and the Centre.

Kerala Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (Kinfra) is the nodal agency for implementing the ASIDE scheme in Kerala.

The State achieved exports worth Rs 7038 crore for the year 2002-03.

According to Mr Ajay Kumar, Secretary (Industries), export statistics during the April-September period reveal an average 10 per cent increase over that of the previous year.

Giving sector-by-sector statistics, he said that seafood items, at Rs 951 crore, registered 60-70 per cent growth during the period.

The relative figure for the sector for the whole of the previous year was Rs 823 crore.

Similarly, cashew exports looked up from Rs 681 crore of the last year to Rs 965 crore as on September, registering 15-20 per cent growth.

The same was the case with cardamom and coir, even if smaller in scale.

The lone laggard was the spices sector, which has been able to tot up only Rs 146 crore as of September-end, against the cumulative Rs 560 crore the previous year.

Explaining the logic behind Kerala's new-found thrust on the food processing sector, he said that the State contributed to as much as 25 per cent of the country's exports even if it accounted for just 1.2 per cent of the total geographical area.

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