Phosphate import, energy top on Khurshids list for North Africa

Written by Huma Siddiqui | New Delhi | Updated: Jan 29 2014, 10:02am hrs
India will seek to boost its engagement with three major North African countries as part of its Look Middle East'' approach when external affairs minister Salman Khurshid visits Morocco, Tunisia and Sudan later this week (from January 30-February 5).

Phosphate imports to India, which is significant in the country's quest for food security, would be topping the agenda when Khurshid visits Morocco, revealed sources.

About 1.2 million tonne of phosphoric acid is imported by India from Morocco, which is about 50% of Indias total import. Besides, the possibilities of long-term measures such as setting up of joint ventures in Morocco will also be discussed.

Bilateral trade in 2012 was $1.62 billion with Indian exports to Morocco of $518 million consisting textiles, transport equipment, tractors and pharmaceuticals. OCP (office Cherifen des Phosphates) has a phosphate-related joint venture with Tata Chemicals and Chambal Chemicals & Fertilisers, which produces 400,000 tonne of phosphoric acid for exports to India. During the first ever visit to Tunisia by an external affairs minister, besides exploring other sectors for economic cooperation, including pharmaceuticals, auto industry, farm vehicles and garments & textiles, the minister will also discuss increasing import of Phospate.

India is the largest buyer of Di-Ammonium Phosphate (DAP) and Phospheric Acid. In fact, Tunisia-India Fertilizer is a $ 450 million project that produces 360,000 tonne of phosphoric acid annually to be shipped to Indian companies.

Tunisia has been a reliable source for phosphates since 1950s and India accounted for over 50 % of Tunisias global phosphoric acid exports.

Khurshid will also visit Sudan with which India is collaborating actively in the field of energy.

India is the second-largest exporter for Sudan. During 2012-13, the bilateral trade between the two countries stood at $ 888.28 million with Indian exports of $ 754.94 million. This year it is likely to cross $1-billion mark.

Several Indian companies are now active in Sudan, including ONGC-Videsh, BHEL, TCIL, Progressive Construction, Mahindra & Mahindra, Tata Motors and Bajaj Auto.

All three countries are availing of training courses under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme. Morocco utilised 25 ITEC slots in 2013-14.

There are 45 ITEC training slots earmarked for Tunisia. A good number of Tunisians availed training in India under the India-Africa Forum Summit.