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India may target $400 bn exports in two years

Following a declining trend in merchandise exports for some years in the past, Indian exports picked up in April-June quarter this year, with May 20% growth and June 18% and prompted by this upward trend, the Central Government may target $400 billion annual merchandise exports in two years. And the Union Commerce Ministry in consultation with Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) is to formulate a strategy to achieve the goal.

With a sustained 20% exports growth from now, India’s merchandise exports can be pushed to a little over $350 billion this year and $400 billion in the next fiscal, FIEO President Ganesh Kumar Gupta viewed.

A 20% exports growth is sustainable, Gupta said recently emphasising that the strategy needed to be aimed at high potential markets such as Africa and Latin America. Indian textiles, handicraft, handlooms, leather, engineering goods, pharmaceuticals and automobiles have a huge potential.

"Even China is importing from India a lot of items like handicraft and carpets, and the US-China trade war too has opened up a window of opportunity to push exports to both Beijing and Washington. However, this needed to be worked upon," he said. The Commerce Ministry-FIEO joint strategy will be readied shortly, he said.

Economist H A C Prasad, who recently retired as Senior Economic Advisor in the Finance Ministry, has come out with a study paper on the challenges and policy initiatives needed to take India's merchandise exports to a new high. According to him, with green shoots in merchandise exports it is only appropriate to raise India's share in world exports to a 5%.

To reach the 5% share, merchandise exports should hit $882 billion by 2022, which means India's export growth rate needed to be around 27% CAGR for five years. This is not impossible as India has had higher exports growth than this during 2004-09, Prasad said.

To boost trade, India has to make its exports demand based rather than supply based as at present.

India has huge potential in increasing farm exports. The strategy is to raise farm exports from the present $40 billion annually to $100 billion with improved packaging and shelf life through better cold storage facilities.

India farm production cost is the cheapest in the world and with an improved market strategy, India could step up farm exports in no time.

Some specific steps were needed to improve Ease of Doing Business for exporters, besides reduction in transaction cost, delay in ports to make Indian exports competitive, Gupta said, adding a lot has been done but some unfinished tasks have to be attended to.

Prasad suggested setting up of an ombudsman to resolve export related problems as there is no clear cut dispute resolution mechanism at the moment.


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