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India seeks Kiwi expertise in agro-technology

Bilateral relations between India and New Zealand could find larger meaning and purpose with enhanced cooperation in transfer of agro-technology, an expert has said.

According to Indian Institute of Management Lucknow (IIML) Director Devi Singh, India can benefit from the technical expertise of New Zealand in modernising his country’s all-important agricultural sector.

“Improving agricultural productivity and investing in food processing technology and expertise is a priority and we are working closely with the federal and state governments and with the Indian Council for Agricultural Research. Our objective is to offer proper training programmes to young farmers and encourage them to improve farming methods and employ modern technology,” he said, speaking to Indian Newslink last week.

He was in New Zealand to discuss possibilities of expanding the tie up that his Institute established with the Lincoln University in Christchurch through a Memorandum of Understanding in September last year.

High agri-business

Sunil Kaushal, Head of India Relations at ANZ Bank, which arranged the collaboration between the two institutions said that India offered high potential in agri-business and that New Zealand companies can find profitable commercial opportunities with their Indian counterparts in serving the agricultural sector.

Dr Singh said that IIML and Lincoln offered a joint programme on Agricultural Business Management, and that there was scope for closer cooperation through more value-added courses and programmes.

“We would like to see at least 200 students from India pursuing agricultural courses at Lincoln University every year. Our efforts are also to promote business-to-business and business-to-government relationship. IIML has joint programmes with 35 universities around the world,” he said.

Poor infrastructure

Speaking at a meeting of the India New Zealand Business Council held at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Auckland’s Central Business District on February 3, he said that a lack of appropriate infrastructure was the bane of Indian agriculture.

“Despite high volumes of food, livestock and dairy production, India lacks the infrastructure in food processing, storage and transportation. This inadequacy results in sizeable loss, widening the gap between supply and demand. New Zealand companies that can offer viable and cost-effective solutions that conform to state-of-the-art-technology would have a comparative and profitable advantage over others,” he said.

According to him, the modernisation process should not only cover agricultural production but also food processing, procurement and distribution. There has been little change since the system was established more than 50 years ago, he said.

Larger picture

New Zealand Trade & Enterprise Regional Director Clayton Kimpton said that New Zealand companies should look at the larger picture and long-term engagement with India.

“Goods from New Zealand should conform to premium quality and should not be seen as competing with products made in India. It is important to diversity trade with India and move from primary (agriculture and dairy) sector to other sectors. Recent fluctuation in the value of the Indian Rupee has seen a drop in our trade with India,” he said.

Free Trade pact

India is allergic to negotiations on agriculture and does not favour reduction of tariffs and trade barriers to protect its own farming sector. This has been an obstacle in negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement between India and New Zealand. Despite frequent press statements to the contrary, there has been little progress in the right direction.

Sources in Delhi believe that India is not in a hurry to sign a pact with New Zealand and that the Indian Government would be more amenable to discuss non-controversial issues and correct the current trade imbalance with this country.

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