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Tales of Sesame Street

By September 3, 2021 No Comments

By Nikhita Pais[i]

On August 18, 2021, the Brazilian Export and Investment Promotion Agency (Apex-Brasil) and the Forum of Indian Food Importers (FIFI) signed the Technical Cooperation Agreement in an attempt to foster ‘cooperation in strategic areas for promoting international trade in food and beverages between Brazil and India.[1] Furthermore, this agreement aims to develop commercial promotion actions in the food and beverage sector, sharing information about the local market and identifying trade opportunities for Brazilian and Indian companies.[2]

The relations between India and Brazil go beyond just regular trading partners to each other. They are also vital alliances at various fora, such as the BRICS, G-20, G-4, IBSA, BASIC, UN, WTO, to name a few. From India providing COVID vaccines to Brazil in the recent past to rendering market access to each other’s products, this alliance has only witnessed growth in the past couple of years.

Trade between Brazil and India

Brazil and India rank amongst the top 10 agricultural countries globally, with 41% of the total available land in Brazil being used for rural purposes and 58% of the total population in India being engaged in the agrarian sector.[3]

Based on the clients, on both sides, approaching my advice as an Indian expert, I can attest that agriculture plays a paramount role in the respective economies, building bridges between these two giants. Facilitating inter-trading activities would only deem appropriate.

In 2004, India and the Mercosur signed a Preferential Trade Agreement. Under the terms of this PTA, India and Mercosur rendered tariff concessions to each other, ranging from 10% to 100% on 450 and 452 tariff lines, respectively. The products under the Indian offer list include meat and meat products, organic & inorganic chemicals, dyes & pigments, raw hides and skins, leather articles, wool, cotton yarn, glass and glassware, iron and steel articles, machinery items, electrical machinery and equipment, optical, photographic & cinematographic apparatus.[4] Mercosur’s list of products includes food preparations, organic chemicals, pharmaceuticals, essential oils, plastics & articles, rubber and rubber products, tools and implements, machinery items, electrical machinery and equipment.[5]

The success is attested by a significant trade flow growth: in 2019, the total bilateral trade between India and Brazil was valued at US$ 7,02 billion[6], India being Brazil’s 7th largest import source country and the 18th largest export destination.[7]

To take this long-standing relationship between the two nations even further, India, though one of the largest producers of sesame seeds globally, provided market access to the Brazilian sesame seeds in 2019. Accordingly, Brazil rendered market access to the Indian produced maize.

The growing importance of sesame

Sesame production in Brazil has witnessed tremendous growth. The Brazilian farmers have engineered a new variety of seeds, BRS Anahí, that can withstand the local climatic conditions. The suitable weather coupled with the advancements in production technology has enabled Brazil to yield significant quantities of output, approximately 800 kg per hectare. Furthermore, the country has developed two different local varieties of sesame seeds, BRS Morena (brown sesame) and BRS Unaí (black sesame). Cultivating crops that require less water is essential. With their minimum requirement for water, sesame seeds fit this criterion as well.

This hidden treasure has indeed been an underrated produce, especially given the widespread benefits it has. It is a good source of fats and facilitates bringing down the ‘bad cholesterol’ (LDL) and increasing the ‘good cholesterol’ (HDL) in the body. A handful of these seeds, if consumed regularly, can also lower the instances of heart diseases and strokes. Sesame also provides 12% of the dietary fibre requirement in a human, and it is an excellent source of protein, especially among non-meat eaters. Packed with vitamins, these tiny seeds are a powerhouse of both Vitamins B and E, thereby reducing inflammation and boosting our metabolism. Furthermore, given that this product is so rich in calcium, it makes it a good food intake, especially amongst those with osteoporosis, blood coagulation, and other allergies.

World Food Security and Nutrition

While the overall weather conditions in Brazil make it a more than an opportune place for the production of sesame seeds, most of the output is concentrated in the states of Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Pará and Ceará. The 2019 Brazilian yield was as much as 128.000 tonnes as compared to 4.000 tonnes produced in 1970, which indicates an annual growth of approximately 12,79%.[8] Of this, Brazil exported almost 19.846 tonnes.[9]

Encountering numerous events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, wars, water scarcities, and climate change, the world we stay in today faces an acute shortage of food. This problem will only amplify if corrective measures are not taken at the right time.

One of the United Nations Sustainability Goals is eradicating hunger and ensuring adequate food for at least 10 billion people by 2050. Therefore, it becomes even more critical to use the available resources to the maximum, avoiding food wastage and simultaneously finding substitutes to get the required nourishment. Sesame crops advancement is an excellent contribution to this ambitious and vital goal. A collective step by means of making the necessary investments in the field of agriculture would go a long way in turning this goal into a reality.

[1] https://portal.apexbrasil.com.br/noticia/apex-brasil-e-fifi-estabelecem-acordo/#msdynttrid=4dpXg-zfhOz4fd3Kfp-puIkRvoczZZrX0_Gf6ri9SJM

[2] https://portal.apexbrasil.com.br/noticia/apex-brasil-e-fifi-estabelecem-acordo/#msdynttrid=4dpXg-zfhOz4fd3Kfp-puIkRvoczZZrX0_Gf6ri9SJM

[3] https://www.tractorjunction.com/blog/top-10-agricultural-producing-countries-in-the-world/

[4] https://www.indiantradeportal.in/vs.jsp?lang=0&id=0,1,63,75

[5] ibid.

[6] The exports from India to Brazil stood at US$ 4.257 billion, while Brazilian exports to India were valued at US$ 2.763 billion.

[7] https://eoibrasilia.gov.in/?8599?000

[8] https://knoema.com/data/agriculture-indicators-production+sesame+brazil

[9] https://www.selinawamucii.com/insights/market/brazil/sesame-seeds/

[i] Ms. Nikhita Pais is an international trade and investment lawyer at Sidera Consult. She handles the Indian desk of the firm and works on matters pertaining to trade remedies and market access. She did her LLM in International Trade and Investment Law from the World Trade Institute, University of Bern, Switzerland.

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