Its Time To Go Overdrive On Brand-building

Updated: Aug 26 2002, 05:30am hrs
The United States has decided to issue guidelines for voluntary country of origin labelling on imports of various agro commodities (not processed foods) by September 30, this year. It has also stated by September 30, 2004 regulations would be promulgated for stricter implementation in partnership with state administrations.

Processed foods already contains the label of the country of origin apart from other details. This move by the US is to make it necessary to have the label of the country of origin on imported fresh fruits and vegetable, meat and marine products.

It is not an unexpected move by the United States. It had earlier stated about this provision in its Farm Bill 2002 and more stringent indications were stated in the US Bioterrorism Preparedness Act signed by President George Bush this year.

All these are clear indications that import laws are going to be more stringent in the US in the near future.

If import laws become more stringent in the US, the European Union and Japan would also follow suit in making their import laws equally stringent.

European Union has long been advocating the concept of traceability in world trade. This would ultimately pose a challenge to Indian agro exports.

Now, lets see which commodities are going to be covered under the US law for labelling of the country of origin and their possible impacts on Indian exports. The commodities intended to be covered under this new law are muscle cuts of beef, lamb and pork; ground beef, ground lamb and ground pork; farm-raised fish; wild fish; peanuts and a wide range of perishable agro commodities. However, the hotels and restaurants can import these covered items not having the labels of the country of origin.

India is a major exporter of marine products and an emerging player in exports of fresh fruits and vegetables and meat.

It is high time, therefore, that India should launch a massive brand building exercise for promoting its agro products abroad. An umbrella brand of India logo can be thought of and promoted. There can, of course, be individual brands for specific items like Indian Basmati, Darjeeling Tea or Alphonso Mango and the like. But it is better if all these individual brands operate under a Brand India Logo as this would be an easier process to gain better market acceptability abroad.

Agricu-ltural and Processed Foods Export Development Authority (APEDA) and the Export Inspection Council (EIC) should put in their efforts to promote the Brand India Logo. Both APEDA and EIC should work out with each importing country on bilateral basis about the acceptance of the quality standard under the Brand India Logo. There should also be a massive promotional activity of Indian produces and products at international fairs and festivals in importing countries.

Apart from Brand India Logo promotion, efforts should be made to identify farm areas in the country which would supply for exports. APEDA and EIC should instruct the farmers about practices for producing hygienic foods.

APEDA and EIC should work out some acceptable norms and practices in consultation with the importing countries so that any problem arising out of proper labelling of the country of origin and traceability is solved at the farm level itself.

Western countries are very much concerned over the rumours of prevalence of foot-and-mouth diseases in animals and Karnal Bunt on wheat in India. All these problems can be solved if acceptable practices and norms are implemented from farm level to the entire export chain.

These exercises would rather be fruitful in promoting India agro exports. The US law on country of origin or the European Unions assertion on traceability factor can no longer pose to be a challenge.

If we are able to promote the quality of our products through Brand India Logo our agro exports may witness a quantum jump.