Singapore trade bodies sign food export agreement with India

Singapore Food Manufacturers Association's deputy vice president Mr Jimmy Soh.
Singapore Food Manufacturers Association's deputy vice president Mr Jimmy Soh. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Two manufacturing trade bodies here have signed an agreement with Indian food importers to make it easier for them to export to the country.

The Singapore Manufacturing Federation, Singapore Food Manufacturers Association (SFMA) and Forum of Indian Food Importers (FIFI) signed the memorandum of understanding (MOU) at the opening of Food and Hotel Asia (FHA) biennial trade show on Tuesday.

Food producers have experienced difficulties getting their products stocked in India's supermarkets, which have stringent rules - such as enforcing drinking water to be sold in clear bottles.

The SFMA's deputy vice president Mr Jimmy Soh said the Indian government, which controls food imports, "goes by the book".

"The agency set up by the Indian government protects their consumers but in recent years, they have relaxed the regulations to suit international food companies," he said.

"In India, there are different ways on how a product is sold at different prices. It is complex for Singaporean food brands to bring in their products there. Also, there is a lack of understanding of what Singaporean food is in India.

" FIFI will help to organise workshops for us to understand the Indian consumers and also share how we can sell and promote our food products there. They will also help us facilitate visits to the stores there and meetings with the retailers there."

Nut producer Tong Garden and instant noodle maker Koka are some local brands which have a presence in the Indian market.

Speaking at the Singapore Expo event, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran said: "The MOU aims to help Singapore companies overcome regulatory hurdles when entering the Indian market and for the private sector to deepen their networks."

SMF deputy president Mr Sunny Koh said: "We are trying to cut away a lot of the middlemen so that the product can be retailed at a more competitive pricing."

The trade show is a showcase for homegrown food markers looking to innovate and venture beyond the local shores to expand their businesses.

India has the potential to become the world's largest middle class consumer market with a predicted aggregated consumer spending of nearly US$13 trillion by 2030, according to a study by the McKinsey Global Institute.

The study also showed that India is set to become the world's fifth largest consumer economy by 2025.

The Indian retail market is estimated to be worth US$450 billion and one of the top five retail markets in the world by economic value, according to a report by IE Singapore.

Founder and director of FIFI Amit Lohani said: "The idea is to promote Singaporean food to India, give better choices to India. We have a free trade agreement with Singapore that would help us bring products at a much lower cost to consumers."

Almost 3,200 exhibitors from 71 countries are participating in the four-day event which ends on Friday.

It includes 138 local firms, a third of which are new, showcasing their products.

Correction Note: This article has been edited for clarity.