India offered flexibility on RCEP – the world’s biggest trading bloc

RCEP – the initials that describe potentially the world’s biggest trading bloc.

RCEP needs India back – it walked out during earlier negotiations.

To urge India back to the negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), its 15 member countries have offered New Delhi the option of deferring commitments related to opening up its market.

Reports on the RCEP move come on the eve of online discussions between Indian PM Modi and Australian PM Morrison. I hope they can advance the talks.

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The move was reported in The Hindu Business Line.

According to some diplomatic sources, the deferral means that India does not need to worry about RCEP’s impact on the broadening of its trade deficit with China and other member countries when it signs the RCEP agreement.

India quit talks with the RCEP — which includes the 10-member ASEAN, China, Japan, Australia, South Korea and New Zealand — in November 2019, as it could not agree on crucial issues including the level of market opening being demanded by the members, especially China.

“If India agrees to the package then it can enjoy the benefits of all other aspects of the RCEP pact such as investments, services and intellectual property rights, without having to worry about the fate of industry and farmers,” the diplomat further said.

The RCEP, once completed, could be the largest trading bloc in the world, accounting for 45 per cent of the world’s population and 40 per cent of world trade.

 

 

Stop seeing India through the lens of someone else’s trade war

Things get a bit biased in the west, and right now China is seen by politicians as a negative – even if most western economies rely on China trade.

The mythology from politicians is that their country – including Australia – should look at “diversifying” trade targets away from China.

Thinking of India as an “alternative” to China is a bit disrespectful of India and setting up for failure. Seeing India for what it is – a really good opportunity but on a different scale to China – will lead to better commercial and political decisions.

Let’s not look at India through the lens of someone else’s “trade wars”.

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When it comes to the world, China is the big game. India and Indonesia are also in the game and worth playing with, but each needs to be respected for what it is.

Take the 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper which reported that growth in demand through to 2030 from China would be greater than that from the US, Japan, India and Indonesia combined. China’s rapidly expanding middle-class market is the big market.

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Even the Peter Varghese report on India’s potential showed that by 2035, Australia might export $45 billion of products and services to India. That would be great news! But compare that figure of $45 billion (and it’s 15 years off) with last year when Australia exported more than $160 billion to China.

When we remove the blinkers of politics, we can treat each country with respect and see the actual opportunity they represent.

We can open our eyes to a better view of trade – seeing it as part of the overall relationship of friendship with trading partners.

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Australia should join with India to become the “food bowls” of the Indian Ocean

India and Australia can become the major “food bowls” of the Indian Ocean region, if the two countries can find a way to collaborate in horticulture  The region includes some of the world’s fastest growing middle classes, including much of Africa, the Middle East, India and its neighbours and Southeast Asia.

This is one of the conclusions of our study of “India-Australia Horticulture Collaboration” which was part funded by the Australia India Council, DFAT.

The Indian horticulture sector already faces pressure for change, presenting Australia with a once in a lifetime opportunity to build a collaborative commercial relationship with India.

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Pressures for change in India are market driven as the middle class grows, Government driven with a push to bigger farms, mining industry driven as it seeks to play a positive community development role and horticulture industry driven, as farmers want innovation as a pathway to better incomes.

Indian market becoming health conscious

Market driven changes result from a growing middle class anxious about the content, health outcomes and quality of the vegetables and fruits they buy. Plus, a whole range of vegetables labelled as “exotic” in India now face rapidly rising demand – broccoli, cherry tomatoes, capsicums, parsley, celery, cabbages, zucchini and asparagus. Berries are becoming sought after, especially blueberries and strawberries.

Government driven changes are creating one of the biggest historical shifts in rural India – the new Farmer Product Organisations (FPO).  The Government has set an aim for 10,000 of these collaborative ventures. An FPO is a grouping of at least 10 and up to 500 farmers into a collective including marketing. The Government will fund these FPO’s and possibly farm subsidies will be distributed via them.

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The FPO structure is currently in need of support services to enable them to secure business acumen, market linkages, better insurance terms, quality assessment infrastructure, precision agriculture solutions for better crop management, access to finance, IoT based applications and more.

At the same time India’s agricultural research centres (Central, State and private) are very keen to be part of the solution and become a focus for knowledge and training in horticulture techniques new to India. Their demand for displays and services around hydroponics and protected cropping is very high.

Miner driven changes result from delays and obstruction from farmers, and awareness that by supporting horticulture innovation around mines, they can contribute to increasing the income of farmers and provide new income for rural women – thereby making a contribution to the livelihoods of the communities they operate in.

Indian farmer driven changes follow complaints of declining incomes and knowing they have an inability to meet the needs of the new middle class, at home and in the Indian Ocean region. Women in rural communities are seeking new ways to add income to households.

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While farmers are traditionally conservative, there is growing awareness in India of the need for “new skills and innovations for new products”.

India will want collaboration, not high pressure selling

Facing these demands for change, India is not inclined to simply import and adopt western approaches – rather, it seeks to create Indian style innovations with global partners who can adapt to this demand. The Israel and Netherlands governments have established free standing centres of horticulture excellence, with low levels of interest and participation. Australia can move into this space if it is prepared to adapt to what India wants.

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What will be needed for these changes? Skills training and train the trainer programs, IT systems, adapted hydroponics and adapted protected cropping systems and products, post-harvest storage and to market systems and a combination of displays and training at Government and private research centres (not free standing).

Protected Cropping (PC) opportunities are huge but need to be tailored for India – including shelter by artificial structures and materials, enabling modified growing conditions and protection from pests and adverse weather. In the mix here are greenhouses and glasshouses, shade houses, screen houses and crop top structures.

Hydroponics and Controlled Environment Horticulture (CEH)

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The most modern and sophisticated form of protected cropping have been developed in Australia and we should be able to export this knowledge – might be relevant to corporate farms in India with some key adaptions, creating “modified hydroponics”. CEH combines high technology greenhouses with hydroponic (soil-less) growing systems. CEH makes it possible to consistently and reliably control or manipulate the growing environment and effectively manage nutrition, pests and diseases in crops.

Hydroponics in Australia and the west is crop production using a soilless growing medium with nutrients supplied in a liquid form. The choice of substrate can be varied to suit the crop and climatic requirements. Hydroponic growing also includes growing in a flowing nutrient stream without utilising a solid medium. This is known as nutrient film technique. For India, some adaptation of drip irrigation, soil and non-soil bases leads to “modified hydroponics” and would meet demand over there.

Agricultural research centres in India play a major role in supporting farmer innovation and skills upgrades. There is an opportunity for an Australian Centre of Protected Cropping and Hydroponics to be embedded in at least one of the Indian Government agricultural research centres, another with the State of Tamil Nadu and in a private research centre. These could be supported by a “virtual centre” with farmers accessing it via mobile phones.

This would be a major step forward in building a genuine India-Australia collaboration in horticulture, enhancing the capacity of both countries to become the food bowls of the Indian Ocean.

 

The “Developing India-Australia Collaboration in Horticulture” research project by Genesis Horticulture Solutions was part funded by the Australia India Council, Australian Government

 

Indian PM Modi announces A$400 billion stimulus policy

Indian prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced a A$400 billion stimulus package, one of the biggest in the world’s responses to Covid19.

The package is approximately 10% of India’s GDP.

The stimulus package is called “Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan” and aims to make India self reliant and to revive the stalled economy.

Details are still coming out but part of the program will be major reforms across areas such as land, labour and liquidity laws to underpin a boost to the “Make in India” campaign.

Other areas will likely include supply chain for agriculture, reforms to national taxation, simplification of some laws, build capable human resources and strengthening the financial system.

It is typical Modi – ambitious, unexpected in magnitude and investors are already reacting with enthusiasm.

Citrus Australia says Indian market needs at least 5 years of relationship building

Of course, Citrus Australia is encouraging growers to think about building relationships in the Indian market. We produce plenty of citrus and more to come.

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But it was such a thrill to learn that their CEO, Nathan Hancock (pictured), believes at least a 5-10 year strategy is required.

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INTO INDIA has been saying for years – India is for the long-term relationship builders and Citrus Australia is heading the right way.

He has told the industry they might need to accept a lower price just to build this relationship – and then there could be opportunities for price increase.

He rightly says India wants to buy “safe and healthy” food – and Australia has this reputation.

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Citrus Australia has been looking at the potential for mandarins – I would too, and one target could be the millennials (age 21-37) who are more open to experimenting with foods.

India wine harvest down this year – opportunity for Australia?

India’s wine grape harvest is well down this year. A spell of unseasonal rain in October and November has spoiled grapes sown in Sangli and Nashik – both are in the State of Maharashtra in the “cooler” areas near the Western Ghats mountain range.

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Pictured above – Sula vineyards – dominant Indian wine brand

On average, the state of Maharashtra crushes 20,000 tonnes of grapes and produces 1.2 million litres of wine – this year, however, just 12,000 to 15,000 tonnes of grapes will be crushed, resulting in the production of 700,000 litres of wine.

I first heard about this from the Trade Promotion Council of India who produce terrific information about trade with India – well worth having a look at their website.

But the figures hide another reality – quality will be down.

Commenting on the issue, Mr. Rajesh Jadhav, secretary of All India Wine Production Association, said, “There will be a 25% reduction in wine production and due to poor quality of the fruit, it will be difficult to maintain quality.”

India’s millennials (there are 450 million of them) are drinking wine – not in quantity but definitely chasing quality.

The Australian wine industry has a presence in India but mostly at the lower end – cheaper or good value wines led by Jacobs Creek.

Time for Australian wines to pursue sales channels in India!

Austrade and Amazon provide “your passage to online India”

Vegemite will make its way into Indian shoppers’ online baskets after the launch of an Amazon Australia store there – possibly the most exciting India news for Aussie consumer goods exporters.

The Aussie shop at Amazon India already has Australian brands including Capilano, Swisse, Sukin, Gaia Skin Naturals, Australis, Sanitarium, Sun Rice, Orgran, Australia’s Own and the Byron Bay Chilli Co available immediately.

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Why is this so exciting? India has just been a distant dream, a major hassle, a demanding market with too many markets, too many restrictions and challenges at every turn. Going with this online alternative makes it accessible, sensible and possible.

Up to now, India is Australia’s fifth-largest export market and is tipped to be the third biggest economy in the world by 2035, behind China and the US. This could well up the priority of India for Australian exporters.

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Who can play in this new space? Australian food, health, fashion, sporting goods, home care and lifestyle brands.

The online store gives local Australian businesses easier access to 450 million internet users in India out of the population of 1.3 billion.

How do you get into this online space?

You still have to know about India, the market and the trends. You also have to know where you might fit in this scene. You would expect me to say this – but having someone here who knows India has been a key for almost every successful exporter to India.

Then team up with Austrade and Amazon for your “passage to online India”.

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India’s water and waste provide big opportunities for Australian firms

Water and waste management and technologies are in high demand in India.

Funding from the Indian Government and the World Bank is driving new projects.

Local players are doing well – the Water & Effluent Treatment Business of L&T Construction has secured three Engineering Procurement Construction (EPC) water management orders from the Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development and Finance Corporation (KUIDFC).

According to the company’s statement, under the contracts it will be responsible for ‘Design, Build, Operate, Maintain and Transfer of water supply systems.

Austrade has long been a champion of Australian expertise getting into this sector in India. It says: “The Indian industrial water and waste-water market are going through a shift with recycling and reuse, zero liquid discharge, and online effluent quality monitoring systems becoming mandatory across industries.”

Recycling and reuse of water has been made mandatory for industries and housing projects in some states. Industries across power, food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, refineries and textiles and other sectors are gearing to meet stringent pollution norms, leading to increased demand for reliable water and wastewater treatment technologies.

Austrade points to four major opportunities in India:

  • Ganga River Cleaning Project: US$3.5 billion (jointly funded by the World Bank and the Government of India) project to focus on river restoration, building sewage treatment infrastructure across 118 towns, village level waste water management, and rehabilitation of existing sewage treatment plants (STPs).
  • National Hydrology Project: US$700 Million (jointly funded by the World Bank and the Government of India) project aimed at establishing a hydrologic database and hydrological information system (HIS) for effective water resource planning and management.
  • Groundwater Aquifer Mapping and Management Project: US$1 billion projects aimed at data acquisition through 21,000 exploratory and observatory borewells to be excavated, preparation of aquifer maps and real time groundwater monitoring.
  • Smart Cities Initiative: Water is a significant aspect of the smart cities initiative in India. Projects on urban water supply, recycle and reuse of waste water, smart water meters are in pipeline.

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South Australian firm Hydro-dis is one of several Aussie firms active in India – it has snared a role in the Cleaning up the Ganges project.

The company, based in Adelaide’s northern suburbs, has developed a new device that provides immediate disinfection, improves the efficiency of metal removal and includes residual chlorine to reduce contamination after treatment.

Post Covid19 could be a good time for a major Aussie push into the water and waste landscape of India – we are good at it, have the expertise and the technology.

 

These India numbers will boggle your mind but the future is more exciting

Here are some India and Australia numbers to contemplate:

(Thanks to Bill Cole, Partner International, BDO, pictured below, for some of this data)

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AUSTRALIA

  • Population: 24.6 million
  • GDP: USD 1.3 trillion
  • Top 5 Imports: Personal travel services, motor vehicles, refined petroleum and ships
  • Top 5 Exports: Iron ore, Coal, Education travel services, natural gas and personal travel services

INDIA

  • Population: 1.339 billion
  • GDP: USD 2.5 trillion
  • Top 5 Imports: Petroleum products, gems, electronics, chemicals and machinery
  • Top 5 Exports: Textiles, Gems, Chemicals, Products and Agricultural products

Top Trading Partners

Australia’s top 3 trading partners are China, Japan and the USA.

India comes in at number 7.

India’s top trading partners are China, USA and UAE, with Australia coming in at number 20.

So, what about the future?

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Australia’s India Economic Strategy to 2035 Report:

  • Recommends that by 2035 Australia lift India into our top three export markets, make India the third largest destination in Asia for Australian outward investment and bring India into the inner circle of Australia’s strategic partnerships
  • Identifies 10 sectors where strengths of Australian businesses match India’s needs:
    • Education (flagship)
    • Agribusiness, resources and tourism (lead)
    • Energy, health, infrastructure, financial services, sport, science and innovation (promising)

It is sure a “big picture” report – but with the right approach it can be achieved.

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Seems PM Modi and PM Morrison are getting on well – so time for business, investment and education to pick up the baton and run with India. Ready?

Melbourne seminar on India has best expert panel

BDO has assembled Melbourne’s best India panel to speak on Tuesday 3 March – book now – free event. Email michaelm@eastwestadvisers.net

They have a great line-up of speakers:
Michelle Wade, Victorian Trade Commissioner for India, Bengaluru
Susan Coles, Deputy State Director, Victoria, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Bill Cole, Partner International, BDO
Sandeep Khurana, Director, EastWest Advisers
Michael Moignard, Director, EastWest Advisers

I am proud to be the MC of this one.

Venue: BDO, 727 Collins Street Melbourne
Date: Tuesday 3 March 2020
Time: 12 noon start (lunch will be provided)
Email michaelm@eastwestadvisers.net

Pictured below: Bill Cole, Partner International, BDO

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