The Union textile ministry proposes to source silk from Africa to diversify its source base from domestic production and China. It has identified countries such as Mozambique, The Gambia, Zambia, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda and initiated discussions with their embassy officials in India. It proposes to send a delegation to these countries to assess the investment climate and seek cooperation, said officials.
“The agro-climatic conditions are very good in these countries. Before we decide any investment, we need to check with the respective governments for cooperation for large scale overseas direct investment (ODI),” added the official.
Under the proposal, either a government entity or private firm in a joint venture or a partnership with the government could invest in these countries to improve production and skill levels in silk. Thereafter, either we import back to India for improvisation or set up centres in these countries for export.
The ministry has already undertaken a big programme in investment and skill development for cotton in Uganda, Malawi, Mali, Burkina Faso and Nigeria under OID, said sources. They said the ministry wanted to develop the competitiveness of the cotton and silk sectors at par with China, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Thailand. The Indian production of raw cotton and raw silk is limited but the focus is on designing and improvising the fabric, they added
The ministry has begun preparing its viewpoints to be presented to the agriculture and commerce ministries, working on a comprehensive ODI policy. Currently there is no ODI policy, and private and public sector undertakings are administered under the jurisdiction of individual ministries and the Foreign Exchange Management Act (administered by the Reserve Bank of India.
A focus on agriculture is based on the recommendation of the Prime Minister’s working group on allowing ODI in agriculture, but in a way that the produce is exported back to India. The initiative is likely to push production of crops like pulses and oil seeds where India is deficient, in addition to cash crops like cotton and silk which have high export value.