Canada’s AGT seeks stable policies to step up India play

The Canadian agri-commodity company backed by private equity firm Fairfax hopes that Prime Minister Narendra Modi relooks at the quantitative restrictions and tariffs imposed on commodities like pulses. India is the largest buyer of pulses such as...

MUMBAI: AGT Foods, one of the largest producers of pulses and staple food in the world, is keen to invest more than $500 million in India provided the country offers a stable policy regime and modernises its agriculture, a top executive said.

“A predictable, stable trade regime is important to unleash the money to be invested into the sector,” Murad Al-Katib, CEO of AGT Food and Ingredients, told ET in an interview.

The Canadian agri-commodity company backed by private equity firm Fairfax hopes that Prime Minister Narendra Modi relooks at the quantitative restrictions and tariffs imposed on commodities like pulses.


Calling for lifting import restrictions on pulses, Al-Katib said the country needs to ensure supply to have sustainable food processing in pulses. “But the local crop has a production problem because the monsoon is off,” he said. “We can’t have government policy only allowing import when there is no local crop.”

It is these tariffs that have come to hurt companies like AGT, said Al-Katib who is also the founder of AGT.

It is understandable that India needs to protect the domestic agriculture industry, he said. However, to make direct investment in food processing multinational companies like AGT look at a flexible business environment where companies have ability to import, process, export, and reinvest, Al-Katib said. They need a policy that allows foreign companies to look not only at domestic market but the opportunity to export.
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Contrary to popular opinion that India is a vegetarian country, Al-Katib said the trend is otherwise. Vegetarianism in on a decline, and with growing income and demographic shift, the consumption of animal-based proteins like chicken is growing. So, his company is competing with the poultry industry.

One way of going about this is by looking at innovation around vegetable protein using pulses, he said. Non-dairy milk from yellow peas and lentils or high protein veggie nuggets from pulses are some of these experiments that AGT is hoping to bring to retail shelves of India.

The present size of AGT’s business in India is around $300 million. The bulk of the investment that it wants to make is in setting up new mills for its innovative tech, he said.

“Our pace of investments might be slower, but we have to be here,” Al-Katib said.
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