Indian & Lebanon Ministries discuss bilateral trade and agri-sector
Sai Nikesh | The Dollar Business Agricultural Ministries of India and Lebanon called on each other on Friday for improving bilateral trade and cooperation in agricultural sector between the two countries. Indian Union Agricultural Minister Radha Mohan Singh met the Lebanese delegation led by Lebanon Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb, in New Delhi and urged them to avail investment opportunities in India. Singh asked the delegation to set up Mega Food parks and Cold chains in India to ensure better supply chain. He also urged the delegation to consider imports from India on certain items like potatoes, tomatoes, durum wheat and sugar, which Lebanon has been already importing from other countries. Stressing on farm sector, Singh also pitched upon sharing of research and development, technology transfer. He further called for the exchange of modern processing techniques of fruits and vegetables, new packing techniques of food products between the two countries. Meanwhile, the Lebanese Minister too said that strong bilateral trade will also reflect imports of olive oil, honey, wine and other food products by India, which are majorly produced by Lebanon. The Lebanese counterpart also requested the Indian government to simplify ‘visa procedures’ saying that would strengthen bilateral trade. Henri Atallah, one of Chehayeb’s Advisors, was quoted to have said that Lebanon is looking to export honey, olive oil, wines and fruits like apples and grapes. Poultry is another sector where exports can be increased. Atallah was also quoted to have said that both the countries are also mulling to sign Memorandum of Understanding to resolve the issue of high import duties in India, especially on Wine, which is around 152%. According to sources, Zafar Chaoui, Chairman, Lebanese Wine Makers Association also said, “Customs duties here work out to nearly 220 per cent for us and we’re hopeful of that changing since India is a significant market with large elite that appreciates good wine.” Despite only nine million bottles being produced each year, Lebanon exports nearly 45% to more than 32 countries at prices ranging between $5 and $50, the official added. The official further said that Lebanon produces superior quality grapes including the indigenous Obedieh which is among the oldest varieties on Earth. Thus, he said, they are extremely interested in selling to India. India’s exported $69.41 million worth of agricultural goods to Lebanon in 2013-14 while its importing amounted to $0.47 million.
This article was published on February 7, 2015.