India's merchandise exports fall for 13th straight month
India's merchandise exports fell for the 13th straight month in December and were valued at $22.29 billion against $26.15 billion in the like month in the previous year, as per official trade data released on Monday.
Imports also fell during the month by 3.88 percent to $33.96 billion from $35.33 billion, even as the trade deficit went up to $11.66 billion from $9.18 billion, as per official data released by the Commerce and Industry Ministry.
On the positive side, the continuing fall in the crude oil prices brought the import bill on this count down by 33.19 percent to $6.66 billion from $9.96 billion, while the non-oil shipments to the country increased 7.63 percent to $27.30 billion from 25.36 billion.
"The export figures, which reflected the continuous decline for more than over a year now, seems to be now gaining lost ground," said S.C. Ralhan, president of the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO).
"As commodities and crude oil prices have more than 40 percent bearing on India’s exports, this has further led to continuous decline in exports. Global demand also does not seem to be picking up," he added. 
"With only countries like US showing some signs of improvement, this does not augur well."
Looking at the cumulative figures, exports during the first three quarters of the current fiscal were valued at $196.60 billion down 18.06 percent over previous year's $23.99 billion and import fell 15.87 percent to $29.58 billion from $35.16 billion.
Oil imports during the period declined 41.60 percent to $68.07 billion from $116.56 billion and non-oil commodity shipments to the country were down 3.11 percent lower at $227.74 billion, as against $235.05 billion.
Between the disappointing export numbers, the federation president sought to suggest that among the top 30 commodity groups traded in December, half the numbers saw a positive development in December, as against seven in the previous month.
"Export sectors including jute manufacturing, including floor covering, have shown an impressive growth of over 135 percent. Spices with 34 percent, handicraft (27 percent), tea (25 percent) and fruits and vegetables (24 percent) were some of the high export growth sectors."
Ralhan urged the government to reconsider the inverted duty structure for "Make in India" scheme and sought service tax for exports, besides calling for the creation of fund with a corpus of 0.5-1 percent of total export value to push India's merchandise shipments.
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
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    'Defence exports have risen in past 6 to 8 months'
    The Make in India campaign would have increased India's defence exports over the past six to eight months, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said on Monday.
    Parrikar was speaking to reporters here during a two-day visit to the state.
    "Actual export figures will come after some time," Parrikar said, when asked if measures taken by his ministry to boost defence-related export had worked.
    "Many of the items from defence ministry list have been de-listed, export has been opened...During last six-eight months the export NOCs are being granted online. There is no complaint...Earlier NOCs used to take months to be given; now we give them within specified time frame. I have been intimated by the industry itself that they have been getting the export NOC within the time, in fact, faster than they expect," Parrikar said.
    Parrikar also said that the Make In India policy was the highlight of the defence procurement procedure, under which 49 percent foreign direct investment was permitted in the defence sector and on a case to case basis, the FDI could go up even up to 100 per cent.
    He also said that currently the global component in defence procurement was a small one, and the majority of the items were made in India.
    Parrikar also said that de-listing of nearly two-thirds of the items from the defence ministry list had encouraged manufacture and free trade in the sector.
    "When we deleted some items, they became free-to-export, and freely tradable...So the restrictions of requirement of Defence NOC were automatically withdrawn. Almost two-third items have been removed from the list, so now you have more items which you can freely manufacture and export," Parrikar said.
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    Export subsidy for raw sugar is small relief, but what about arrears and ethanol blending?

    It is time that some major relief provisions are made in the ensuing Budget for the sugar industry, which is in the doldrums for long


    At long last, after months of delay, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved the extension of subsidy for raw sugar export to Rs4,000 per tonne, for the sugar crop year, ending in September 2015, for export of 1.4 million tonnes (mt), against last year's subsidy of Rs3,371, which ended in September 2014. Why should the Indian government take four months to decide this issue when they already knew the plight of farmers and the huge stocks on hand? This needs to be investigated.
    Abhinash Verma, the Director General of Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) is reported to have said that this revision has been long awaited and expects out the huge stocks, at least 1.4 million tonnes would go for export, and bring a small relief to the mills. The current season may bring about some 26 million tonnes of sugar, as against the demand pattern of about 24 to 25 million, leaving an excess to add to our overflowing stocks.  Last year's carry forward of 2.5 million tonnes needs to be cleared too.
    As against this, the farmers arrears, estimated at Rs12,300 crore will increase to Rs13,000 crore, if exports are not done quickly. The industry was able to export only 700,000 tones and tend to produce raw sugar only after finalising the export contract. It is reported in the press that as at the end of January this year, the raw sugar production has been estimated at 64,000 tonnes due to the inordinate delay, of nearly five months, in deciding the export subsidy of Rs4,000 per tonne, and there is doubt if they can manage to increase it to effect shipment of 1.4 mt now allowed.  
    In fact, in order to bring relief and to ensure that farmers' dues are settled, overdrafts with bankers are reduced by millers, it would be prudent of the government to open up the raw sugar export, instead of limiting it to 1.4 mt, as the first step. 
    Second, this the time for the government to take a serious look at this industry, which has too many issues to tackle. The major issue would be to completely abolish the SAP (State Advisory Price) that has been in vogue in Uttar Pradesh (UP), which is fixed at Rs2,800 and which is higher than the Centrally administered FRP (Fair and Remunerative Price) of Rs2,660 per quintal.  UP has also a low recovery rate of 9.26%, as against, for example, Maharashtra, where the cane prices are around Rs2,550 per quintal with a recovery of 11.4%.
    Thirdly, as mentioned, reportedly by Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, several state governments were imposing a levy on molasses and they were also regulating the movement of non-levy molasses, while some others were imposing import-export duty on ethanol arrival and departures from their states!  On the top of this, some state governments apply octroi on ethanol entry into their municipal limits! To compound the misery, inter-state movement of ethanol needs no objection certificates from State Excise Authorities! 
    It is time therefore some major relief provisions are made in the ensuing Budget.  It would be prudent if the following steps are considered seriously for implementation:
    a) Application of a linkage formula, as recommended by the Rangarajan committee, with modifications, if necessary
    b) There should be only one FRP applicable and abolishing the SAP as practiced in UP 
    c) The Oil Marketing Companies will have to blend 5% ethanol to petrol effectively from April otherwise, they will not get government subsidy at all
    d) Sugar mills should be permitted to sell 25% of their stocks in the free market
    e) Export subsidy should be open to a higher limit. The quota for export should be increased to 2.5 mt
    f)  No State government should impose any levy/octroi or impose any restriction on ethanol or movement of molasses from one state to another
    g) farmers’ arrears will have to be paid directly by the Millers' bankers against submission of delivery documents, received at the gate, after weighing-in of the cane supplied
    h) the excise inspectors at the millers’ gates should give the inflow details to the bankers directly under advice to the millers, who will sign the documents, thus automatically permitting the payment to the farmers (or similar process of documentation) 
    i)  bankers should be advised to help restructure the loan needs of millers by mutual discussions
    Stringent steps are needed to bring complete relief to this industry which has been in the doldrums for long.
    (AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)
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