Exploring new pathways of trade between India and New Zealand

Indian High Commissioner Neeta Bhushan flanked by Michael Fox (right) and Stephen Jacobi at the seminar (Photo Credits Ishant Ghulyani)

Venu Menon
Wellington, April 20, 2023

The High Commission of India in Wellington hosted a seminar on Wednesday to explore new pathways of trade in agricultural products between India and New Zealand.

The event was held in partnership with the New Zealand International Business Forum (NZIBF), the India New Zealand Business Council (INZBC) and Export New Zealand.

The seminar featured zoom presentations from India and a panel of prominent business leaders from both countries.

High Commissioner of India to New Zealand Neeta Bhushan noted in her opening remarks that the seminar was timely and focused on “a very important sector of cooperation between our two countries.”

She cited the bilateral exchanges in recent months, including ministerial visits, which “signifies the commitment of our two countries to taking their partnership to the next level and realising its full potential.”

There is heightened mutual interest on trade with at least 15 business delegations from India having visited New Zealand and special agricultural trade envoy Mel Poulton slated to visit Kiwi fruit cultivation sites in the North-eastern states of India next month, the high commissioner said.

“The personal experience she will have, and the delegations which are visiting each other are having, adds a special dimension to the partnership. It’s one thing to meet online or discuss by email but quite another to actually go and see for yourselves the facilities and the work being done on the ground,” High Commissioner Bhushan observed, adding, “Building relationships matters hugely while doing business in India.”

She said the Government of India attached high priority to the India-New Zealand partnership.

“Products from New Zealand have high brand value in India.”

She reminded potential exporters that India “has a large market of 1.4 billion people and is the perfect destination for business and products from New Zealand.”

The audience at the seminar (Photo Credits Ishant Ghulyani)

High Commissioner Bhushan observed “there is now an increasing demand for high quality organic products and I’m sure that with greater interaction we will be able to find very good innovative solutions to increase trade and investment.”

She said agriculture was accorded high priority with initiatives such as the Digital Public Infrastructure for Agriculture included in India’s Budget. That initiative “enables inclusive farmer-centric solutions through relevant information services for crop planning and health, improved access to farm inputs, credit and insurance, help for crop estimation, market intelligence etc.”

In addition, an Agriculture Accelerator Fund is being set up to promote and “encourage agricultural start-ups by young entrepreneurs in rural areas,” the high commissioner informed the gathering.

India has taken the lead in marking 2023 as the International Year of Millets. “Millets are a nutritious food item which replaces grains such as wheat as a staple,” High Commissioner Bhushan noted, adding, “A global hub is being created [in the Indian city of] Hyderabad as a centre of excellence promoting best practices, research and technologies at the international level.”

Stephen Jacobi, executive director of NZIBF, which brings together major international businesses and business associations with an interest in trade and investment, spoke next.

“Not only is India booming economically off the back of a very strong post-covid recovery and the contribution made by its very large population and innovation and diversity that you see in India, but also that our partnership is entering a new and exciting phase,” Jacobi said.

“In these rather difficult times globally, it does seem that everybody is looking to India as a new source of growth and partnership. And certainly, New Zealand is no exception,” he added. He referenced Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s visit to New Zealand and foreign Minister Mahuta’s visit to India.

Jacobi acknowledged the people of Indian ethnic heritage in New Zealand, who comprised nearly 5% of the population, as “one of the fastest growing population groups in our country this century.”

“You [Kiwi Indians] are making valuable contributions to New Zealand society, our business community, entertainment, media, politics and to sport,” Jacobi pointed out.

He said the seminar was driven by the conviction that “there are significant opportunities to expand cooperation and build up business between our two countries.”

Annapurna Shankar of Invest India,  the national investment facilitation and promotion agency of the Government of India, who joined the seminar online from Delhi, provided an overview of the agricultural and horticultural sectors in India.

“The gross value added by agriculture to the total economy in the year 2022 stood at around 19%,” Shankar pointed out.

She highlighted the scheme to promote horticultural exports with the Indian government providing support “in setting up an entire cluster from the pre-production stage to the marketing stage of a particular product.” These horticultural clusters are proposed to be set up in the North-eastern region of India.

Dairy farming entrepreneur Deepak Raj, panel member and CEO of Binsar Farms, located in the Indian state of Haryana, spoke of his early experiences in getting his start-up venture off the ground. “Binsar farms is a live example of the relationship between India and New Zealand,” Raj told the gathering via video telecast. Joining hands with INZBC Chair Earl Rattray, Raj runs a successful dairy operation with a growing market for his organic products. “So far we have done 15 million deliveries, our customer base is increasing and we are trying to be more innovative in our approach and sustainable in our products,” Raj said.

Up next was Michael Fox, head of global public affairs at kiwi fruit marketer Zespri. Zespri, the largest marketer of kiwi fruit in the world, exports to around 50 countries and did about $ 4 bn in sales for 2021-22, Fox pointed out.

“We have been in India for about 10 years,” Fox said, adding, “We did about $ 20 million in sales in 2021-22.  So, it is a small market, but it is one that we are investing in and we have built a very positive relationship based on the purpose of going in and doing well.” Fox believes India will emerge among the ten largest markets for kiwi fruit exports from New Zealand within the next 10 years.

Final panellist Rohit Anand, a New Zealand citizen of Indian origin, is the managing director of Redstone Ventures, a specialist consulting and investment firm supported by private equity. Its goal is investing in the Australasian technology sector to help take firms into global markets. Anand emphasised the need for commitment while entering the Indian market, matched by resilience, execution and accountability. “These are the tools required to manage the engagement with India.” he advised new entrants to the Indian market.

The seminar closed with the panelists fielding questions from the floor.

Venu Menon is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Wellington.

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