Nitin Gadkari: 'Increase exports, reduce dependency on imports'

ST Correspondent
Monday, 4 May 2020

“Focus on villages, the poor, workers and the farmers, and use modern technology, research and innovative ideas.” - Union Minister Nitin Gadkari.

Pune: Union Minister Nitin Gadkari has advised the industry and business leaders to augment exports by reducing dependency on imports. The minister was interacting with select industry and business leaders in a web-conference.

Assuring the entrepreneurs that the government would support the manufacture of indigenous products, Gadkari said, “There are huge opportunities for MSMEs in the agricultural sector. Focus on villages, the poor, workers and the farmers, and use modern technology, research and innovative ideas.” 

The web-conference was organised by AP Globale’s Palladium India and was attended by a select invitee. It was moderated by AP Globale Chairman and Sakal Media Group Managing Director Abhijit Pawar. 

Talking about the tribal areas, Gadkari mentioned, there are 115 tribal-dominated districts in the country where the per capita gross income is low. 

“These 115 districts can change the picture of the country as these districts have great potential for MSMEs in the agriculture sector. There are investment opportunities in agriculture, rural and economic sectors and the income of farmers here needs to be doubled,” said the Union Minister.

“However, imports need to be taken into account while planning. A study on India’s imports and exports will be published in three months,” Gadkari added. 

Gadkari also declared that the agricultural sector, last year, had recorded a turnover of Rs 75,000 crore. This year, it is expected to touch Rs 1 lakh crore. For the next two years, the ministry is targetting a turnover of Rs 5 lakh crore.

Advising reduction of dependency on imports, Gadkari cited examples and said the country has adequate stocks of sugar, for the next two years. The country also has stocks of wheat and rice sufficient for three years. 

“The Food Corporation of India every year sells rotten grains. It can be bought at Rs 8 to 11 per kg while broken rice is available at Rs 10-12 per kg,” said Gadkari.

“One tonne of broken rice yields 430 kg ethanol. This becomes economically viable. We aim at building an ethanol-based economy worth Rs 2 lakh crore. Around 200 to 250 sugar mills in the country, mortgaged with the banks may shift their operations. We have asked for five-six acres of land from these factories on a lease of 30 years and can start distilleries there,” he added.

“Bajaj, TVS companies have built bikes that run on flex engines which use ethanol. If the number of such vehicles increases, dependence on petrol imports will be decreased, and farmers will be benefited from the ethanol economy. After making ethanol, the residue of rice which contains proteins can be used to manufacture animal feed. The current prices of animal feed are around Rs 22 per kilo. The rice residue-based animal feed can be priced up to Rs 18 per kilo. This would further benefit the dairy industry,” he suggested.

Shedding light on the status of the paper industry, Gadkari said, “No raw material is available for country’s paper industry. The country currently imports newsprint worth Rs 40,000 crore, besides paper pulp worth Rs 40,000 crore and wood pulp worth Rs 50,000 to 60,000 crore.” 

The wood imported for the paper industry comes from Canada and South Africa. Gadkari suggested that these imports for paper can be reduced by planting bamboo.

Gadkari suggested that Sakal Media Group’s Agrowon daily should make special efforts to increase the production of oilseeds in the country. 

“The country imports edible oil worth Rs 90,000 crore while the domestic production accounts for only 10 to 15 per cent of oilseeds the country needs. The United States of America produces 30 quintals of soybeans per acre while the production capacity in Brazil is 26 to 27 quintals per acre. However, we have a production capacity of only 4 to 4.5 quintals per acre. I have talked to four or five ministers in Maharashtra about this. We should increase the production of oilseeds. We can also plant oilseeds in the month of June-July and Rabbi season. Palms can be grown in coastal areas,” said Gadkari.

“With such efforts, we can save imports worth at least Rs 21,000 crore. Oilseeds will benefit farmers, and for this, changes in cropping pattern will have to be accepted. Production of wheat, rice, sugar has to be curtailed. Ethanol production from oilseeds is also under consideration, as olives can produce better oil and ethanol. We are in talks with Israel for relevant technology,” he added.

Talking about innovations in the fishing industry, the minister said the fishermen in our country currently can only go up to 5 to 7 nautical miles for fishing.

“We have built a new Rs 125-crore ship which would cover a distance of 100 nautical miles. The ship also houses an ice factory. Six-fold increase in fish yield is expected by using such ships. We have embarked upon fishing and water transportation in the river Ganga as well. While road travel costs Rs 10, rail costs Rs 6 and water transport costs only Re 1. Such experiments can generate an economy of around five lakh crore rupees,” he revealed. 

Making a point that eminent personalities like Dr Shri Balaji Tambe, Ramdev Baba, and Sri Sri Ravishankar have been restoring the glory of Ayurveda, Gadkari said, “We can increase the plantation of medicinal plants like Hirda and Behada in our forests. Today, we need to import even incense sticks from China. Benares is famous for its silk sarees, but the silk used in weaving comes from China. To reduce this dependency, we are going to focus on creating import alternatives. We will also endeavour to make export quality products.”

“We are also working towards exporting mango pulp, bamboo clothes, bio-ethanol and also ethanol from inedible oilseeds like pongam oil tree, sal tree seeds etc.,” he added.

To solve the problem of migration the government has been innovating way to form productive cluster alongside the Mumbai-Delhi highway. There is a proposal to build smart cities and smart villages on both sides of the proposed highway. These places will be connected by railways and airways. Also, implementing low-cost housing projects will multiply employment opportunities. 

“The Mumbai-Delhi highway will be completed in the next three years. It is our policy to create such clusters. Presently everyone migrates to cities like Pune, Bengaluru, and Noida. Now we have to decentralise wealth and industry, and these policies are needed to reach those 115 districts,” said Gadkari. 

Addressing the entrepreneurs in the state, Gadkari said. 

  • Think out of the box
  • The focus should be on the village, the poor, the workers and the farmers
  • Use resources like water, land and forests
  • Bring in state-of-the-art technology, research and innovation
  • Create indigenous products

Amit Patjoshi, Palladium India (AP Globale), national head, gave a presentation on ‘Strong, Prosperous, Successful MSMEs’ showing how the MSMEs can create opportunities in the current situation due to coronavirus pandemic. The presentation focused on how MSMEs’ contribution can in the next four years increase exports up to 75 per cent and bring down the imports by 25 per cent. The presentation focused on establishing the MSME smart clusters in tier-two, tier-three cities and in rural areas besides launching skill development programmes. He said Palladium has already been working in this sector in 90 countries across the globe.

Inputs for the presentation came from Agro Inputs Manufacturers Association of India President Rajkumar Dhargude, Secretary Sameer Pathare, Kan Biosys’s Sandeepa Kanitkar, India Infoline Group Chairman Nirmal Jain, Praj Industry Chairman Pramod Chaudhary, Satara District Bank CEO Rajendra Sarkale, Advik High Tech Park Administrative President Aditya Bhatia, Mahratta Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture’s Director-General Prashant Girbane and Palladium Board group member Bobby Nimbalkar.

- Preference to rural, agricultural and tribal areas
- Balancing urban-rural development
- Emphasise on reverse migration

During the hour-long discussion, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari spoke about government policies in road transport and MSME sectors. He also invited Abhijit Pawar for a comprehensive meeting in New Delhi taking ahead of the discussion. The meeting is expected to be held soon.

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