Export-promotion forum, trade fair to boost farm cooperatives: Govt

Union ministers Piyush Goyal (left) and Narendra Singh Tomar at the curtain raiser on ‘The First Ever India International Cooperatives Trade Fair’ | Photo: PTI
The government has announced that an export-promotion forum for the cooperative sector will be created soon. An international trade fair will also be organised on October 11-13.

The forum will be set up under the National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC), after consultations with 20 states and three Union territories, said Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal and Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Tuesday. 

The government hopes this will work as an exchange platform for the cooperatives. Both ministries have committed to establish a framework to double farm exports from Rs 2.75 trillion to about Rs 7 trillion by 2024-25. 

There are more than 800,000 cooperative institutions in India; 94 per cent of 1.5 million farmers in the country are members of at least one cooperative.

Along with this, a trade fair will be held by the agriculture ministry and will be supported by the commerce and external affairs ministries. The latter is expected to ask India’s diplomatic missions abroad to get foreign participants for the fair.

While cooperatives from the farm sector will be the primary participants, cooperatives from other fields such as textiles and leather may also be allowed. The trade fair, to be organised jointly by commerce, agriculture and external affairs ministries with support of cooperative bodies such as the NCDC and the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority, will provide direction to exporting value-added agriculture products.

Goyal said the fair will be instrumental in disseminating global demand and engaging with industry players from other nations. “Technology has not yet comprehensively reached our farm sector. The fair will provide our cooperatives ways to do this,” he added.

Last year, the government had unveiled an ambitious agriculture export policy that seeks to double agriculture exports to $60 billion by 2022 and do away with arbitrary curbs on exports. However, the policy found little support from experts who termed the target “highly ambitious”, given how exports had fallen from nearly $40 billion five years back to $36 billion in 2017-18. 

Despite India occupying a pole position in global trade of these products, its total agriculture export basket still accounts for only a little over 2 per cent of world agri trade, estimated at a $1.37 trillion. 

Aiming to push India into the list of the top 10 agri export nations, the policy has been backed by the Prime Minister’s Office.

The aim to remove curbs on exports also had not found much traction among experts. If previous experience is any indication, the government tends to clamp down on exports at the slightest hint of rising inflation, they said. 

The commerce department has suggested tying the policy to logistics support, a better trade regime, and states-led product development to connect farmers to global markets.

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