On Friday, 10 August, 2018, government officials, the United States Agency for International Development, and private sector experts joined CUTS International, a premier public policy think tank headquartered in Jaipur, in a Concluding Stakeholder Workshop to discuss the findings of a study on Facilitation of Agricultural Non-Tariff Trade Barriers Between India and Bangladesh. The purpose was to deliberate various types of non-tariff barriers hindering India-Bangladesh bilateral trade in agriculture and their implications on the livelihood of farmers.
Welcoming the participants, USAID/India Mission Director Mark Anthony White, said the bonds of U.S.-India-Bangladesh friendship have grown from strength to strength, forged by common aspirations to improve the lives of their citizens. He underscored that the volume of the bilateral trade between India and Bangladesh currently amounts to $9 billion USD annually. However the bilateral trade potential between these two countries is at least three times this amount. He said this potential can be realized by addressing existing non-tariff barriers related to standards, processes, procedures and infrastructural challenges.
Bipul Chatterjee, Executive Director, CUTS International said that the study is unique in a sense that it provides a ‘granular analysis’ of product- and port-specific issues that hinder cross-border agriculture trade. He categorically pointed out that farmers are not able to realize the benefits of trade because of various factors which include lack of marketing infrastructure, supply chain bottlenecks and extensive involvement of intermediaries. He further stated that we must look at global good practices of organizing farmers into groups and adopt such models to our agricultural productivity as well as marketability. Drawing from the Japanese experience of “One Village, One Product” initiative, he emphasized adopting ‘One District, One Product’ as a mission to transform the Indian agriculture sector.
In his address, Rokebul Haque, Deputy High Commissioner of Bangladesh to India said that the relationship between India and Bangladesh has improved significantly in the past few years. Both countries are committed to deepening economic and trade ties. Given that India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and Bangladesh is graduating out of its least-developed-country status, time is ripe to further strengthen this bilateral cooperation. He emphasized that India and Bangladesh have a shared past, a shared present and we should see how to make our shared future a better one.
In the first session, Surendar Singh, Fellow, CUTS International presented the findings of the study. In his presentation, he stated that other than addressing policy-induced barriers such as export restrictions on agricultural products and infrastructure deficiencies in land custom stations, there is an urgent need to address gaps related to sanitary and phyto-sanitary
measures and technical barriers to trade. Such issues can only be addressed through mutual recognition arrangements and conformity assessment procedures. He emphasized shifting clearance procedures from land ports to inland container depots, dry ports and bonded warehouses to ease congestion at land ports. In addition, some existing schemes such as direct port delivery, authorized economic operators can be introduced at land ports to expedite the clearance of imported cargo.
According to Anil Bamba, Chairman, Land Ports Authority of India, it takes only two days to clear a consignment at Agartala Integrated Check Post. However, the study offers fresh insights to the current developments. He mentioned that the Government of India has already taken a number of initiatives to strengthen export infrastructure at land ports. “The findings of this study will help us to take specific actions to improve the functioning of integrated check posts.”
In second session, Rahul Arora, Policy Analyst, CUTS International made a presentation on livelihood linkages of trade in agricultural products. He stated that the linkages between agriculture trade and farmers’ livelihood are blurred due to existing information asymmetries. In order to address this challenge, there is a need to focus on improving the efficacy of agriculture supply chain through private sector engagement.
Adding to this, Sanjeev Chopra, Director General, Administrative Training Institute and Additional Chief Secretary, Government of West Bengal, said that the essence of the study is that it has covered specific production centres and their linkages with exports. It provides a new thinking to policy-makers on how trade affects the livelihood of farmers, particularly small and marginalized ones. The study has clearly outlined the need for promoting Border Haats in border areas to facilitate cross-border transactions of local products, which has strong linkages with the livelihood of people living along border areas.
During the workshop, Mr. Mustapha Elhamzaoui, Director, Food Security Office, USAID, New Delhi, emphasized the importance of providing smallholder farmers with an opportunity to overcome the numerous constraints limiting their ability to benefit from wider trade gains in the region. He further explained how trade integration will effectively allow smallholder farmers to benefit from trade and subsequently improve their income.
In the concluding session, Simrat Labana, Project Management Specialist (Agriculture), Food Security Office, USAID, New Delhi, underscored the importance of active engagement of private sector organizations in the areas of skill and infrastructure development to address technical capacity related gaps. Adding to this, Bipul Chatterjee stated that there should be case studies on the functioning of farmer-producer organizations, small-farmers’ agro-consortiums and farmer cooperatives in India to facilitate their direct participation in trade-related activities as that can help them get better price for their products. He finally said that CUTS is committed to take forward the study’s recommendations to the relevant agencies in both countries and will keep track of specific actions.
For more details, please contact:
Surendar Singh, firstname.lastname@example.org , +91-70239-88286