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BPA welcomes Freeports Consultation; calls for maximum ambition in scope and scale

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BPA welcomes Freeports Consultation; calls for maximum ambition in scope and scale. Image: Flickr/ John Fielding
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The British Ports Association has welcomed the publication of a new consultation on the introduction of free ports, which have the potential to transform coastal communities and unleash ‘port-centric’ growth.

The BPA is part of the Government’s Freeports Advisory Panel which is advising on options for their introduction in the UK. Last year the Association published a report outlining a bold and ambitious set of proposals in A Licence to Operate: ‘Enterprise, Development and Free Trade Zones’. This calls for freeport status to include a package of measures to support growth in coastal communities around development, consenting and enterprise. This report was written in collaboration with a number of ports and airport operators.

The BPA is now calling for Ministers to maximise their ambition and remove the cap on potential number of freeports and include a much broader package of measures that would benefit a wide range of different UK ports.

The UK has 125 cargo-handling ports. Freeport status will benefit ports differently depending on their current traffic/business profile and specialisation. Some will naturally be keener than others but there will be more than 10 of these that will want to benefit and Government should not place an arbitrary cap on this ambition.

Commenting on the consultation, Richard Ballantyne, Chief Executive of the British Ports Association and member of the Government’s Free Ports Advisory Panel, said:

“Freeports are a transformational opportunity for some UK ports that could unleash growth and development in some of the UK’s most deprived coastal areas. We will be making the case for a package of maximum ambition in both scope and scale.

Ports handle 95% of the UK’s trade and we will be putting forward a bold set of measures that support a variety of models to fit different ports and the industries that rely on them.”

Freeports will not solve issues around new ‘frictions’ that will be introduced at certain gateway ports at the end of the Brexit transition period but they could help some ports and traders deal with the range of new customs and other borders requirements at particular port operations. The BPA will continue to call for a strong trade agreement with the EU that priorities minimising the erection of new non-tariff trade barriers.

What is a ‘free port’?

Traditionally, a freeport is an area outside of a country’s customs territory but within its physical borders, sometimes known as a ‘free zone’. This allows certain goods to be transhipped or processed through a port without attracting customs duties. This means that components could be added to a product and re-exported without generating additional prohibitive costs.

If the UK ends up striking a low-alignment trade deal with the EU (or if we do not agree a deal at all), free ports may help alleviate cost burdens that may be placed on some industries that have cross-border supply chains.

The British Ports Association believes that a UK freeport model should be much wider than the traditional ‘customs’ free zone model, of which many of the benefits can be achieved through existing processes. We have set out a much broader and more ambitious freeports manifesto that would include a package of measures around development, consenting and enterprise.

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Impex

India and US in negotiations to make a trade deal

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India and US in negotiations to make a trade deal. Image: Pixabay
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India and the US are in negotiations to make a trade agreement. The  Commerce and Industry Minister Shri Piyush Goyal has invited the United States commercial enterprises to take the bilateral exchange to new heights. Addressing the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) via a digital convention, ShriGoyal stated that the 2 democracies percentage deep dedication with each other, on the Government, Business and those to people to people levels.

Both nations trust in free and fair trade and the United States is India’s biggest buying and selling partner. He said that going beyond trade, in this interconnected world, the two nations can be the resilient trusted partners in the global value chain.

He further indicated to the members of US-India Strategic Partnership Forum about the initiatives taken by the government to facilitate industry and investments. He said that a GIS-enabled land bank has been launched on pilot basis, with six states on board, which will help the investors in identifying the land and location. 

India is ready to sign an initial limited trade package, and it is upto the US to move ahead, he said. 

The US is eager for a deal in advance of its presidential elections in November and had indicated that a preliminary deal ought to encompass recuperation of the GSP advantages to India and marketplace entry for each other’s agricultural products. India has demanded exemption from excessive obligations imposed on steel , aluminium products and its farm products, even as the United States is looking to have a  market entry  for its farm production, merchandise and clinical devices. 

He said, the trade deal has challenges but also a number of opportunities. This could be a foundational exchange deal on the way to deepen our engagement going forward.

 

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Food Logistics

India ranks first in number of organic farmers and Sikkim becomes first state in the world to become fully organic

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India ranks first in number of organic farmers and Sikkim becomes first state in the world to become fully organic. Image: Pixabay
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As the global pandemic situation continues the demand for access to good quality food is on the rise and it’s a high priority to India. In a very recent official statement from the government, India ranks first within the number of organic farmers and ninth in terms of area under organic farming. Also Sikkim became the first state in the world to become fully organic and other states such as Tripura and Uttarakhand have similar goals.

With the aim of aiding farmers to adopt organic farming and improve remunerations, government had introduced two dedicated programs specifically Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North East Region (MOVCD) and Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) were launched in 2015 to encourage organic farming. 

The major organic exports from India are flax seeds, sesame, soybean, tea, medicinal plants, rice and pulses, which were instrumental in driving an rise of nearly 50% in organic exports in 2018-19, touching Rs 5151 crore. 

Modest commencement of exports from Assam, Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland to UK, USA, Swaziland and Italy have proved the potential by increasing volumes and expanding to new destinations because the demand for health foods increases.

Both Mission Organic Value Chain Development and Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana are promoting certification under  Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) and National Program for Organic Production (NPOP) respectively targeting local and international markets. 

Before making a purchase a consumer should look for the logos of FSSAI, Jaivik Bharat / PGS Organic India on the produce to ascertain the organic authenticity of the product. This can be a very important element of an organic produce. 

Presently, the commodities with highest potential include ginger, turmeric, black rice, spices, nutri cereals, pineapples, medicinal plants, buckwheat, bamboo shoots, etc. Supplies of organic produce has started from the north eastern region including for Mother Dairy from Meghalaya, Revanta Foods and Big Basket from Manipur. 

The organic e-commerce platform www.jaivikkheti.in is being strengthened for directly linking farmers with retail as well as bulk buyers. Infusion of digital technology in a much bigger way has been a major takeaway during the pandemic period.

Indian organic farmers will soon be reinforcing the top place in the global agriculture trade. 

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Retail imports to see lowest annual total in four years

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Retail imports to see lowest annual total in four years. Image: Pixabay
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Imports at major U.S. retail container ports during 2020 are expected to see their lowest total in four years as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the U.S. economy continues, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“The economy is recovering but retailers are being careful not to import more than they can sell,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “Shelves will be stocked, but this is not the year to be left with warehouses full of unsold merchandise. The more Congress does to put spending money in consumers’ pockets and provide businesses with liquidity, the sooner we can get back to normal.”

U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.61 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in June, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 4.9 percent from May but down 10.5 percent year-over-year. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

July was estimated at 1.76 million TEU, down 10.2 percent year-over-year. August is forecast at 1.81 million TEU, down 7.3 percent; September at 1.69 million TEU, down 9.5 percent; October also at 1.69 million TEU, down 10.4 percent; November at 1.59 million TEU, down 5.8 percent, and December at 1.56 million TEU, down 9.6 percent.

Those numbers would bring 2020 to a total of 19.6 million TEU, a drop of 9.4 percent from last year and the lowest annual total since 19.1 million TEU in 2016. The first half of 2020 totaled 9.5 million TEU, down 10.1 percent from last year.

August is expected to be the busiest month of the July-October “peak season” when retailers rush to bring in merchandise for the winter holidays. But with retailers ordering less merchandise, the month’s total would be the lowest peak for the season since 1.73 million TEU in 2016 and falls far short of the 1.96 million TEU peak in 2019. Peak season usually includes the busiest month of the entire year, but this year that was likely January’s 1.82 million TEU.

“This year, peak season seems to have been thrown off by the coronavirus pandemic along with just about everything else we consider normal,” Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said. “We’ve probably already had our busiest month. And with the pandemic taking a hit on the economy ever since then, peak season is likely to be a disappointment by comparison.”

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