- Kaul calls for urgent action to address global food crisis
“Escalating food costs present a greater problem with far reaching consequences than the soaring oil prices, It is wreaking havoc on the poor and to address this challenges of food security, what is needed is an effective partnership between the governments and private sector including investing in rural infrastructure and marketing institutions in developing countries” said EICC Director Dr. Mohan Kaul during his interview with the BBC on 2 April 2008. Global wheat prices have jumped 181 percent over the last three years, with overall food prices up by 83 percent, and a total of 37 countries currently face food crises. “The soaring prices of rice is putting leaders under intense pressure as strikes and demands for pay hikes are mounting to keep up with the rising costs of living” added Dr. Kaul, who is also the Director General of the Commonwealth Business Council. He said that rising food prices are posing a threat to stability and growth in many parts of the world. Dr. Kaul added that to deal with this crisis, the government of India has followed the steps taken in other Asian countries like Vietnam and China and has imposed export restrictions on non-basmati rice, pulses, scrapping of import taxes for edible oil and maize, etc. (a move also prompted by the 13-month-high inflation), Developed countries too are feeling the pinch as prices of bread and rice are rising rapidly. According to Dr. Kaul, some of the reasons behind the current problems are: rising crude oil prices, natural calamities, increasing production of bio fuels, rising prosperous population in India and China and a 10-year drought in Australia. With crude oil soaring above US$110 a barrel, higher fuel prices have driven up the cost of production and transportation costs for all foods. “Especially distressing for developing countries are the consequences of a shift in the farming paradigm in North America and Europe’s in the quest for alternative fuels. Billed originally as a boon for the hungry of the earth, bio-fuels have actually spelled crop preferences that have proven cruel to the intended or imaginary beneficiaries”, Dr. Kaul added. About 16% of U.S. agricultural land formerly planted with soybeans and wheat is now growing corn intended as bio fuel.
Dr. Kaul also said that millions of people in China and India enjoying a higher quality of life are changing their eating habits, consuming more meat and chicken and placing a huge demand on cereal stocks. Dr. Kaul suggested that in order to deal with the present crisis, countries should focus more on producing food and less on giving incentives to produce bio fuels and hoped that governments will take urgent steps to deal with this situation. According to Dr. Kaul, African countries should seize the opportunity and take lead in becoming the breadbasket of the world and, where needed, government should intervene by offering fertilizer vouchers to farmers, such as in Malawi to help boost crop production
- EICC member promotes use of Oxo-Biodegradable plastic as alternative to environment issue
“Recycled plastics are fine but they are not degradable and will lie around in the environment for decades. However, ordinary plastic and recycled plastic can now be made oxo-biodegradable”, this was the theme of the presentation by the EICC member Michael Stephen in a conference of Plastec 2008 in India recently. The Conference was attended by about 200 manufacturers, traders, journalists, and students. Although Biodegradable plastic is an eminently eco-friendly alternative but it is yet to make its presence significant, and is yet to take off in India with a good speed. Oxo-biodegradable Plastics (OBP’s) are plastic materials, generally traditional polyolefins that undergo two steps degradation, initially by an oxidative process that is promoted by the inclusion of catalytic additives and subsequently by biodegradation. Products made from these materials degrade under conditions of sunlight (UV) heat, and/or mechanical stress to complete the cycle of resource utilization and return otherwise intractable plastics to their natural origins.
- EU Trade Experts hold consultation with EICC
Three member external evaluation team of the European Commission held discussion with the EICC on 25 June 2008 in Brussels on the preparation of Phase II of the EU’s Trade and Investment Development Programme (TIDP) which is currently underway. TIDP aims to further support the integration of India in the world economy by smoothening impediments to trade and investment flows through training and technical assistance in selected fields, such as customs, intellectual property rights and sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures/ technical barriers to trade (SPS/TBT) and trade/investment promotion. It is I this background that the EC Delegation to India has launched an evaluation mission to assess the results and impact of the first phase of the programme and to identify the main areas of cooperation for Phase II. Within the framework of the developments and implementations of the Joint Action Plan of the India-EU Strategic Partnership agreement, the TIDP is collecting information and views on the success of, and potential improvements for, the TIDP programme. However, the team was unable to provide specific information on the organisational and administrative setup of the programme.
The EICC conveyed its general observations on the TIDP programme: the programme is almost unknown to the business community and there already exists many publicly funded investment promotion bodies at the Member State level, and therefore, whether it would not make sense to combine the TIDP programme with some of these national organisations in order to achieve synergies and cost efficiency. The Experts’ Team indicated that there was a possibility of combining the TIDP II programme with the European Business and Technology Centre, which is currently being established by the European Commission in Delhi. The EICC supported Team’s view that the EICC assisting and associating in the organisation of and in the content to, the two expert groups would be an important step forward in enhancing the TIDP programme’s visibility to promote the Indo-European trade relations – one expert group to deal with matters relating to Corporate Governance and the second should discuss issues relating to Public Private Partnerships. Both issues are mentioned in the EU-India trade agenda agreed between the EU and the Indian Government and should therefore be considered to be of high political importance. EICC also addressed issues like visa problems for Indian SMEs, rigidity on part of the EU on issues such as sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards, Intellectual Property Rights, public procurement policies, etc which the EICC views as major obstacles to the Indo-European trade. The EICC was represented by Board Members Mr. M S Chandramouli and Dr. Daniel Sharma and its Secretary General Sunil Prasad