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INTERVIEW

“India is a land full of opportunities”
Monday, 13 May, 2024, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
ITA - Italian Trade Agency is the Governmental agency that supports the business development of Italian companies abroad and promotes the attraction of foreign investment in Italy.

Italian Trade Commissioner to India Antonietta Baccanari, in an email interaction with Ashwani Maindola, spoke about the collaboration between India and Italy in the food and beverage sector. Excerpts:

How do you see India and Italy as trading partners in the food trade? Shed some light on Italy’s contribution to India's food processing sector.
India and Italy have excellent bilateral relations, people to people ties and historical bonds of friendship. The two countries enjoy cordial relationship and a regular exchange of visits at political and official levels.

With regards to the food & beverage industry, Italy is among India's top 5 trading partners in the European Union. India’s food & beverage market stood at euro 552 billion in 2023 and is estimated to reach euro 835 billion by 2028, hence we see there is immense potential in the food industry. Italy is the second-largest exporter of olive oil and third-largest exporter of pasta towards India, as reported by the trade statistics for the year 2023.  
The Indian food processing market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 15.2% and reach euro 488,880 million by 2025.

The Indian Government has been actively taking initiatives to help the F&B industry grow, both locally and internationally. For example, 100% FDI has been allowed in trading of food products, including trading through e-commerce. Precisely this is the area where, the Italian companies would like to join hands with the Indian F&B companies achieving the best quality parameters with their expertise in technology.

In April 2021, the two countries launched the first ever Mega Food Park project in India, involving food processing facilities. The pilot project called “The Mega Food Park” was launched in virtual mode, with the signing of a Letter of Intent between the Italian Trade Agency Office in Mumbai and Fanidhar Mega Food Park, in Gujarat, adding a major boost for business on both sides.

The Italian Trade Agency plans to organise an Agri Tech Day in Italy, with a select incoming delegation from India. This event will bring together 15 to 20 representatives from the agribusiness technology sector, to delve into priorities and objectives, identify areas of collaboration, and evaluate India's needs/requirements with Italy’s technological offerings.
The initiative is envisioned as a follow-up to the digital mission for food processing organised in 2020. It will involve the direct participation of directors of Mega Food Parks, both public and private, major GDO retail chains associated with them, and other key stakeholders. This includes technical figures from the mechanisation departments of the Ministry of Agriculture, as well as major players in the agricultural machinery sector linked to the activities of Mega Food Parks.

What is your assessment about opportunities in India for investment by Italian companies?
India is a land full of opportunities where consumers’ openness to exploring international cuisines has led to an influx of imported food products. This culinary diversity not only expands consumer choices but also presents opportunities for businesses to introduce unique and innovative offerings that cater to the diverse and discerning tastes of the Indian consumer.

The Government of India through the Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI) is taking all necessary steps to boost investments in the food processing industry. Under its Central Sector Umbrella Scheme - Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sampada Yojana (PMKSY), the government has sanctioned 41 Mega Food Parks of which 24 are operational.

The food processing sector is a pivotal pillar of the bilateral cooperation between India and Italy as was observed during the summit held in November 2020 between the Indian and Italian Prime Ministers. Under the broader umbrella of the food processing sector, The Mega Food Park Project creates a synergy between industry and agriculture – the fundamental building blocks of the Indian economy.

Consequently, this is an area of great interest for Italy, which can count knowledge, experience research and development of new and more efficient technologies in the sectors; through their institutions and companies, Italy would like to explore the opportunities offered by Indian market for bringing its know-how and sharing expertise with Indian companies within the framework of the Mega Food Park.

Hundred per cent FDI is permitted under the automatic route in the food processing industry, thanks to which, the foreign direct investment (FDI) increased by multiple folds.

The Italian Trade Agency aims to organise a collective participation of Italian companies at the World Food India 2024, a mega food event that reaffirms India’s position on the global food landscape, solidifying its position as a key player in the international food & food processing industry, and providing ample opportunities for Italian companies to establish their footprint in India!

What are your expectations from the Government of India regarding policy intervention that would help the collaborations between the two sides?
The Government of India is already very actively addressing and resolving the major challenges that the food industry is facing. The recently-released regulation on the mandatory requirement of registration of foreign food manufacturing facilities as per the Foods Safety and Standards (Import) for the following categories: milk and milk products, meat and meat products, egg powder, infant food, and nutraceuticals; will certainly be a value-add in the quality management system (QMS).

We hope the issue prevailing on the use of additives such as nitrate and nitrite, which are the typical additives used in the production of cured meat products, will also be addressed soon.

Do you see any major breakthrough in near future/ a major collaboration between the two countries in the food and beverage sector? Can we expect a free trade agreement between the two countries as in recent past India has entered into FTAs with some European countries on one-to-one basis?
Discussions are ongoing with regards to FTAs between the European Union and India. Hopefully we should see some progress post the elections.

At the Italian Trade Agency, we strive to increasingly promote and spread the knowledge and presence of authentic ‘Made in Italy’ products, thereby fostering the bilateral trade and strengthening the bond between the two countries!
 
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