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India-UAE to tap businesses in food processing & agriculture: TPCI

–      India need to capitalize food & agritech investment from UAE: Consul General of India, Dubai

New Delhi: Trade Promotion Council of India (TPCI), organised a webinar on India-UAE, trade & investment opportunities in agri and food- processing in association with the Consulate General of India (CGI) Dubai, on August 29, 2021.

Speaking on the webinar, Dr. Aman Puri, Consul General of India, Dubai said, “Dubai can be a gateway for our companies in agri and food- processing sector to take our products and services global. We should not look at UAE as just a market of 10 million consumer rather view it as a springboard for the entire Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region.”

Further Dr Puri said, “It is important for Indian exporters to create clear projects for UAE investment to flow into India. Feedback from UAE investors is that they are looking for clear investible projects. Post-COVID, it is important that we realise this opportunity.” There is an investible surplus, both governments are committed, other stakeholders are committed. What is needed is clear investible projects to be identified and irritants, bottlenecks and hurdles to be identified and addressed by both by the public and private sector, he added.  

India’s food exports to UAE were US$ 1.89 billion in 2020 calendar year and imports were at US$ 363 million. Last year, the two nations made a resolve to treble their bilateral trade volume in food and agritech sectors in the next five years.

Mr. Saleh Abdullah Lootah, Chairman, Food & Beverage Manufacturing Business Group, Dubai stated,”The food sector is among the main priority sectors for the UAE. It comes number three after oil & gas and real estate. The government is taking new initiatives with the sector especially to support food security, after COVID-19 and the challenges that the food sector went through after this pandemic due to our limited resources in food production.” We can have joint promotions to export UAE products to Indian communities, he added.

Next speaker, Mr Suresh Kumar, Chairman, Indian Business and Professional Council, Dubai emphasised, “Dubai quickly announced the construction of a US$ 1.5 billion food park in 2019. They have already got vertical farming, and realised that vertical farming reduces water consumption by 95%. Embracing vertical farming, smart farming, aeroponics, hydroponics, IoT, etc. resulted in a 53% increase in output.

Additionally, Mr Kumar added, “Given the capital intensive nature of the Emirates, funding and capital infusions should not be an issue. All the Sovereign Wealth Funds have an investible capacity of around US$ 1.2 trillion. This is growing at around 18% per annum. This will continue for a long time, even when oil and gas run out.”

Mr. R. Senguttuvan, Chairman of Sectoral Committee on Food Processing & Packaging Technology, TPCI said, “Apart from addressing the needs of the Indian diaspora in food processing packaging technology in UAE, Indian agri exporters must recognise the needs of the foreigners living here across 200 nationalities.”

Mr. Sanjay Grover, Vice Chairman of Sectoral Committee on Food Processing & Packaging Technology, TPCI and Vice President – International Business Division, Kirloskar Pneumatic Company Ltd., India need to look at conversions of the strong India-UAE ties into strong decisions that will help us achieve a future vision over the next 20-30 years.

There is a landmark change in the nature of food processing in India. We are now moving towards value added food, processed and ready to eat food. It will be a plus point for Indian companies as our entrepreneurs are now being aligned to these food habits.

Food and Beverage industry has to have an end-to-end value chain perspective from farm to fork, including production, processing and logistics. UAE and India will find common challenges in this regard. India is building up, with large chains of cold storages, transportation, quality of produce, etc.

Mr. Abhishek Poddar, Vice Chairman, Food & Beverage Sectoral Committee, TPCI and MD, Nani Agro Foods said, “The Indian food processing market is expected to double from US$ 263 billion in 2019-20 to US$ 535 billion in 2025. The massive pace of urbanization in India has been accompanied by the rise in dual-career households, consequently fuelling a trend towards packaged foods, dairy, snacks, ready-to-cook and ready-toeat products.”

India exports agricultural/horticultural products and processed foods to more than 100 countries/regions with major exports to the Middle East, Southeast Asia, SAARC countries, the European Union (EU) and the US, he added.

Mr. Ashok Sethi, Director, Trade Promotion Council of India, India’s share in UAE’s F&B imports from the world is 12.9%, which flags not just our level of bilateral trade, but the opportunity to grow this number. Potential products that India can export to the UAE are black fermented tea, mangoes, apples, fresh and dried oranges, tomatoes (fresh and chilled), fresh and dried bananas and fresh grapes.

UAE is India’s third largest trading partner with bilateral trade of US$ 59.1 billion in 2019-20. UAE has initiated attempts for a broader India-Gulf Cooperation Council dialogue on reviving talks for their bilateral Free Trade Agreement. Talks for an India-UAE bilateral FTA have already begun.

India wants to work very closely with the UAE as a reliable partner in food security, and the UAE-India food corridor is slated to attract investments of US$ 7 billion from the UAE.