India is keen to extend Line of Credit (LoC) to least developed African countries for joint venture business initiatives in agriculture sector, Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia said on Wednesday.
While speaking at the India-Africa AgriBusiness Forum organised by the industry body Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries (Ficci), she said huge opportunities exist for co-operation in agriculture sector in both India and Africa.
"We hope to extend lines of credit to joint venture Agri-business initiatives in Africa to deepen our engagement in the agriculture sector particularly in LDCs (least developed countries) and thereby help to support food security in both our regions," Teaotia said.
India currently supports LDCs in trade initiatives through 'Duty Free Tariff Preference' scheme, which came into effect in August 2008. These give them duty-free access to India’s markets.
Saying that India provides 98.2% of our tariff lines (products) to LDCs, Teaotia pointed out that of the 34 LDCs in Africa, 21 countries have already begun to avail themselves of the benefits of the scheme and 13 are yet to become beneficiaries.
Under the scheme, importing of most products from least developed nations to India attract lower duties. Further, Teaotia said the Department of Commerce runs a Cotton Technical Assistance Programme for cotton growing African nations.
"Cotton is certainly an important crop in Africa as it is in India, but in many countries it continues to be exported as raw material without too much of value addition. The programme is an initiative to strengthen the cotton and textile sector in selected countries (of Africa)," she said.
She added the programme has helped in capacity building in R&D, improving post-harvest practices and has also led to far greater movement in the value chain and development in the textile and apparel sector.
Initially started in four countries -- Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali, it had been extended thereafter to Malawi, Nigeria and Uganada. “As agreed in the recent Africa Forum meet in New Delhi, it would be further expanded to Ghana, Togo, Tanzania and Zambia over the next five-year period," she said.
The Secretary also identified several areas for collaboration in agri business between Indian and African countries. These include food processing, organic farming, plant tissue culture, entrepreneurship development, capacity building for which the Government of India is expected extend lines of credit to African nations.