These priorities seem to differ somewhat from the Indian government’s efforts to entice Japanese firms to enter and invest in the Indian market.
On a three-day trade mission to Tokyo ahead of this week’s FoodEx Japan show, India’s food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal said Indian marine products, fruits and vegetables, as well as non-GM foods, were areas where Japanese firms should consider investment possibilities.
“Japan is a saturated market. Its food processing sector does 60 per cent of its business outside Japan. But only 11 per cent of this is with India. There are only 12 Japanese companies operating in India,” she said, adding that India’s infrastructure offers foreign companies the opportunity to quickly make gains in the market.
But tthe Indian SMEs showcasing their wares in Tokyo at this week’s FoodEx Japan show highlighted other priorities for the food processing sector.
According to K. Rakesh, director at Hyderabad-based superfoods firm Kilaru Naturals, technology partnerships and exports are far more of a priority than hard cash investments.
The quinoa, flaxseed and chia seed manufacturer and supplier said he would be interested to collaborate with international partners, especially around extracting chia seed oil, but argued Japan offered more in the way of export potential than investment.
“We are seeing Japanese consumers becoming more health conscious, and while the knowledge of chia and quinoa may still be niche, it is definitely growing,” he said.
“For example, we are seeing high-end restaurants using quinoa for sushi instead of rice, so we are optimistic that we can have success in Japan.
“We already export to South East Asia, but Japan is our next big target. For us, that’s much more important than getting investment from Japan.”
He said the importance of exports was underlined by the fact that one-third of the 650 tonnes of quinoa the company harvested was exported, while nearly 70% of its 300 tonnes of quinoa went overseas.
Fellow exhibitor and boss of Gujarat firm Asian Spices agreed that exports to Japan should be given as much attention as investment from the country.
“We are pretty much self-sufficient and have our own manufacturing site with high-tech processing facilities. We already export to the UK and Malaysia, and, for us, Japan is coming next.”
Similarly, while Tamil Nadu company Port City Impex said investment into India should always be welcomed, it was export potential that had attracted them to Japan.
“We have high hopes for our curcumin products and essential oils ingredients, because spices and curries are already part of the Japanese culture,” said S. Vignesh Surya.
“The government will always do what it has to do and can take care of investment, but we need to focus on exports.”