The Union government could consider creating a brand for the Northeast to better leverage its potential, a World Bank report said.
Brand Northeast would build on elements such as healthy living, environmental sustainability, social responsibility, service orientation, among others. These elements stem from the Northeast Region’s (NER’s) strengths.
While the global branding exercise could be leveraged for promotion of individual production from NER, cluster promotion activities for specific sectors and value chains could in turn help strengthen the global brand, the report said.
According to the report, policy interventions can help NER play to its own strengths to better leverage growth opportunities offered by global trends, creating a “Brand Northeast” was one such. The other interventions suggested were optimising the developments in connectivity and leveraging the private sector to maximise the impact of quality infrastructure and focusing on clear demand for quality services. The report called for reorienting Northeast’s supply base to serve the changing global demand. For instance, the Northeast, with its strengths in organic and near-organic production, could play a major role in India’s quest to become a global player in fresh fruits and vegetables, especially in the context of changing consumer preferences.
While India is a leading global producer of fruits and vegetables, accounting for 11 per cent of global production, its fruit exports form only 0.5 per cent of global fruit exports.
“The region can capitalise on rising demand for fresh fruits and vegetables, and for fresh, high-quality spices, especially those produced in an environmentally friendly and socially responsible manner. It can promote bamboo, an environment friendly resource. It can encourage nature-based tourism, as well as trade in medical and education services,” said Sanjay Kathuria, lead economist, World Bank.
Kathuria co-authored "Playing to Strengths: A Policy Framework for Mainstreaming Northeast India" and its companion report "Strengthening Cross Border Value Chains: Opportunities for India and Bangladesh".
The study has identified four high-impact segments in the products/sectors: spices, fruits and vegetables, bamboo, and medical tourism.
In spices, the northeastern states have an 11 per cent share in India's total production. Ginger and turmeric farming are one of the main sources of cash income for the small farmers.
The investment in food and agriculture sector would have the potential to boost trade between Bangladesh-India-Myanmar.
Bangladesh, which shares border with four of the eight NER states, is well placed to play a critical role in developing high-impact value chains for the region that will also bring gains to consumers and firms in Bangladesh, the report suggested.
Over the past decade, connectivity agreements with Bangladesh and a spurt in infrastructure investments are increasing the north east region's economic integration, said Junaid Ahmad, World Bank country director in India, in a statement.
"Together, these developments can help the region showcase its strengths, particularly in agriculture and services, develop value chains in these sectors and create sustainable, better-paying job opportunities for the people of the north east region," he added.
The report also said that medical tourism was an area that could be tapped. Bangladesh contributed 35 percent of India's estimated medical tourists and 55 per cent of India's estimated medical tourism revenues in 2015-2016.