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`Boost for agri exports'

Our Bureau

MUMBAI, March 31

WITH the Commerce Minister, Mr Murasoli Maran's observation that the Exim Policy encompasses sectors which take care of more that 80 per cent of the population, his document joins the 2002-2003 Union Budget in putting agriculture centre-stage.

Agricultural export has taken a prominent position in the Exim Policy, mainly to provide remunerative prices for farm products. "At last, some thrust has been given to agriculture this year," Mr Kailash Gupta, Managing Director of Neptune Overseas Private Ltd, said.

Although India's economic liberalisation process commenced over a decade ago, a clear emphasis on the agricultural sector was absent in policies, industry and trade sources said.

Starting with the Union Budget, 2002-2003 seems to have begun on a different note. "The Exim Policy is not only inclined to help exports, but more specifically agri-exports," one exporter noted.

The policy removes restrictions of registration and packaging requirements on butter, wheat and wheat products, coarse grains, groundnut oil and cashew exports to Russia under the Rupee Debt Repayment Scheme. In a bid to transform select rural regions into regional rural motors of export economy, the Government has sanctioned setting up of 20 agri-export zones.

While the setting up of these zones was much awaited, the concessions and benefits provided to setting up these zones were expected to help further, exporters said.

However, the development of these agri-export zones will be done in conjunction with the State Governments.

The Exim Policy also provides transport subsidy to export of fresh and processed fruits, vegetables, floriculture, poultry, dairy products and products of wheat and rice. According to the Commerce Minister, this will lead to diversification of agriculture activity.

Providing a thrust to the food-processing sector is likely to encourage the entry of corporate entities into this segment. Of late corporate India has been cashing in on the potential in agriculture.

Leading companies in the sector include Hindustan Lever, Britannia, Nestle, Amul, Tata Tea, Marico Industries and Godrej Foods. The removal of quantitative restrictions is also expected to benefit the oilseeds sector, according to Mr Sandeep Bajoria, Chairman, All India Cottonseed Crushers' Association.

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