Monday, April 23, 2012

China allows import of Indian basmati rice

China has finally allowed import of basmati rice from India, which comes as a big boost to exporters who would now get access to a huge market of 1.3 billion people for their about 4.5 million tonnes of aromatic rice.

It is a very positive move by China ... We are in touch with basmati producers back home to see how to take this forward," Indian Ambassador to China S Jaishankar told PTI.

China had banned imports of several Indian agricultural products, including basmati rice, because of the issues of pest control and monitoring of quarantine pests in processing and storage houses in India.

The approval came after passing through testing procedures of the Chinese official bodies. The Indian Embassy is planning to conduct a publicity campaign to push basmati rice into the Chinese markets.

The diplomats here regard it as a diplomatic success considering that Beijing was found dithering ever since New Delhi formally sought an opening for India's top rice in 2006.

Experts opined that to start with, India exporters should aim for star hotels and Indian restaurants which are mushrooming all over China to take advantage of steady increase of Indian and foreign travellers here.

"It is good news for us. We are getting our basmati so far from Hong Kong. We can now directly buy it," M H Pastakia, owner of Taj Pavilion restaurants in Beijing said.

The move would also help in bridging the ballooning trade gap between India and China which stood at about USD 20 billion

India is looking at China, Mexico and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) as new markets for its basmati rice, with a view to expand its share in global trade.

The country's share of the global market for basmati rice is nearly 60 per cent, while Pakistan accounts for the remaining 40 per cent. This high quality rice is mainly grown in these two countries.

In India, the annual production now stands at around 4.5 million tonnes. It fetches about USD 1,100 per tonne in the global market.

Indian basmati is sold to over 100 countries, including the US, the UK, the UAE, Iran, Kuwait and Europe.

However, K Nagraj Naidu, Trade Consular of the Indian Embassy, said that it is a challenge to enter the market here as Chinese eat sticky (glutinous) rice which is easy to take it with chopsticks.

It is not going to be easy to penetrate the market and efforts would have to be made to introduce India's aromatic rice in a big way, Naidu said.

In its absence, Pakistani basmati rice is widely used in all over China -- the world's largest rice market.

Islamabad had no such problem in securing permission earlier to market its aromatic rice taking advantage of the strategic friendship with China.

Further some traders pointed out to the case of Indian mangoes for which China has granted export permission in 2003, not a single mango was shipped.

Embassy officials too has said that it would be a tough task for Indian traders to penetrate into Chinese market dominated by Thai and Pakistani rice.

China last year imported about USD 387 million worth of rice. "It is a market of billion plus people who are basically rice consumers. It all depends on how our producers and exporters could take advantage of it," Naidu said.

The neighbouring country has banned imports of fruits and vegetables.