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India’s food imports at $33 billion in 2023, down 10% on year
calendar02-01-2024 | linkFinancial Express | Share This Post:

The imports in 2023 were 10% lower than last year’s $36.7 billion as vegetable oil prices eased during the year.


02/01/2024 (Financial Express) - India, despite being one of the few developing countries self-sufficient in food, still shipped in $ 33 billion of farm products in 2023 with more than half of it just accounted for by vegetable oils, according to a report by trae policy think tank.


The imports in 2023 were 10% lower than last year’s $36.7 billion as vegetable oil prices eased during the year.


The imports of vegetable oil in 2023 is expected to be $17.1 billion, which is 18% lower than last year largely due to lower international prices. Pulses, another staple for which India is dependent on imports, accounted for $2.7 billion worth of imports in 2023 which was 44% more than last year, the report by Global Trade Research Initiative (GTRI) said.


Vegetable oil, Pulses, fresh and dry fruits account for 72.1% of Agriculture imports of India in CY2023.


“India needs to cut its reliance on imported vegetable oils to promote better health outcomes and also reduce the import bill. This will need educating consumers about the health benefits of using locally produced oils like mustard, groundnut, and rice bran in lieu of imported oils,” GTRI’s co-founder Ajay Srivastava said. High import duties and resisting pressure to open up are necessary to bolster domestic production and food security.


India is the world’s largest producer and consumer of pulses but more effort is needed to enhance domestic production and cut imports. This can be done by introducing high-yielding, disease-resistant pulse varieties. The key challenges include addressing water scarcity, and mitigating market volatility issues.


Major efforts extend to reclaiming fallow land, promoting intercropping, and focusing on rainfed areas. Also, the market and infrastructure support involve ensuring fair prices through Minimum Support Prices (MSP), investing in storage and processing, and establishing direct marketing channels.


Fresh and dry fruits imports are set to cross $ 4 billion in 2023. Major items of fresh fruit imports are apples ($ 350.7 million), Oranges ($ 90.9 million), Mandarins (Including Tangerines) ($ 14.8 million), Grapes ($ 22.1 million), Kiwi Fruit ($ 67.0 million), Pears ($ 26.9 million), Other Fruits, ($ 40.9 million). With dry fruits major items of import are cashew ($ 1.4 billion), almonds ($ 930 million), walnuts ($ 235 million), areca nuts ($ 130.2 million), dates ($ 210 million), dried figs ($ 127.2 million) and raisins ($ 75.7 million)


Cutting imports of fresh fruits will require addressing challenges faced by the Indian fresh fruit sector. These include the unavailability of high-quality seeds, resulting in lower yields. Inadequate storage and transportation facilities leads to substantial post-harvest losses. Also, the lack of strong branding hampers the industry’s competitiveness globally.


Spice imports in 2023 are expected to be $ 1.3 billion while sugar imports were $1.2 billion. India is the world’s largest sugar exporter after Brazil, but this year it will import sugar in vast quantities due to decline in domestic production caused by weak rains.


Major spices that are imported include pepper, cinnamon, cassia, clove, anise seeds, ginger, saffron and turmeric.