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Opportune time to focus on NE: Exim Bank CMD

Supratim Dey/Kolkata/ Guwahati 08 Dec 12 | 12:32 AM

The Export-Import Bank of India (Exim Bank) is betting big on North East’s unexploited horticulture and agriculture potential. With Myanmar opening up for trade with India, Bangladesh willing to grant transit access to Indian exports and foreign companies set to enter the country’s retail space, the bank feels it is the “opportune time" to tap the agri-export potential of the region.

In pursuit of its newfound focus on the region, the Exim Bank on Friday opened a new “bigger office" in Guwahati to “be ready to tap the potential". It has also commissioned a research study to map the agriculture and horticulture potential of the North Eastern states, including Sikkim. Besides, the bank will also soon open a representative office in Myanmar.

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Today the size of export business in North East is around 1,000 crore and agri-products constitute hardly 5 per cent of it.

“The world market is now looking for organic food stuff produced in non-polluted environments. North East can fill this gap. Even if North East can contribute 5 per cent of the world total agri-exports, it would be around $40 billion," said TCA Ranganathan, chairman and managing director of Exim Bank.

Exim Bank has already identified honey, cardamom, kiwi, ginger, orchid, fruits, etc. as potential agri-products which have high demand in the international market and North Eastern states produces these products.

Ranganathan said the bank could support the North East exporters by indentifying importers and providing help in designing, value addition and packaging of products.

“My mandate is clear. I will try to attract attention, create focus and act as a catalyst. The climate now looks opportune," said Ranganathan.  He added: “Exports can go up significantly if adequate amount of focus and encouragement is given. Exim Bank will try to play its part in this transformation." Justifying the bank’s focus on the region, despite the fact that there were very few entrepreneurs into agri-export business, Ranganathan said entrepreneurs in the region were still not aware of the export potential of North East’s agri-products. “One or two success stories can change the whole scenario," he added.

He said the mapping study that the bank has commissioned, and due to be completed by March 2013, would look into what all needs to be done to substantially increase exports from the region. It would also indentify the areas where the exporters would need support from the bank.

Referring to the three developments – Myanmar opening up its borders for trade with India, Bangladesh willing to allow transit access to Indian exports and Centre allowing foreign investment in retail trade, Ranganathan said: “If you see the three unconnected developments, our anticipation is that agriculture business in North East is set to grow."

Presently, North East contributed around 1.5 per cent of Exim Banks total turnover.

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