20 January 2021

Key insights

India –  Positive economic data for October and November implies the economy will return to growth in the March quarter of 2021. Active COVID-19 cases are now declining. The government has recently made legislative changes to the real estate market; it hopes to encourage demand for property and increase construction employment.

India – METS opportunities should be easier to pursue. A new, online ‘single window clearance system’ for coal mines has been launched that covers 19 major approvals for different departments. This new system is expected to reduce the time required to manage approvals, from auction to production.

Bangladesh – Australian cotton exports to Bangladesh are expected to grow substantially during 2020–21. Cotton imports grew by about 9 per cent to 7.5 million bales (16.27 million MT) in 2019–20, according to data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The high demand for cotton during the first half of the year, combined with the country's efforts in combating Covid-19, enabled the export-oriented garment sector to maintain operations. Australian exported A$200 million-worth of cotton to Bangladesh in 2018–19.

Sri Lanka Budget proposals for 2021 will focus on encouraging FDI and import substitution, dairy and poultry a particular focus. Prospects for processed foods look more hopeful: Austrade has secured a dedicated landing page for Australian brands on Sri Lanka’s leading supermarket chain’s e-commerce platform, www.keellsuper.com. Import restrictions remain in place to stabilise the local currency, although the government also has plans make Sri Lanka a commodity trading and value-add hub, using ports in Colombo and Hambantota.

Market opportunities

India

Agribusiness and food

  • Packaged food products have witnessed a 30–50 % spike in consumer demand during the pandemic. There has been a major shift in demand from unbranded to branded products. This has helped lift sales of Australian products across categories like snacks, cookies, ready-to-eat foods, protein rich foods, and immune system-boosting produce.
  • Demand for Australian lamb and wine remains soft, with many high-end hotels and restaurants operating at low occupancy rates. Some states are still restricting numbers at gatherings. In Delhi and nearby regions for instance, weddings are limited to 50 people, whereas typically these attract 400–600 guests.
  • Major e-commerce platforms in India are adding private labels in their differentiation strategy and are looking for high quality and gourmet products. This increases opportunities for Australian manufacturers to export products like canola oil, oats, muesli, protein bars, and plant-based milk.
  • According to food importers, anxiety about COVID-19 is driving consumers to seek healthier food. Consumers are cutting back on sugar and salt, and are focused on preventive healthcare and ‘mindful eating’, indicating the potential for disruption in the food and beverages sector. This presents increased opportunities for ‘free from’ products from Australia. Organic exporters face stiffer barriers to market entry owing to a lack of recognition of Australia’s organic standards.
  • According to industry estimates, India imported Manuka honey worth A$760,000 in 2019. At least six brands are now available on shelves and sales are expected to grow 18% this year. Austrade’s strategy to promote premium processed food involves actively working with retailers, importers and Australian exporters to increase the number of Australian food products in India.
  • Australian snack makers are expanding onto online platforms. The Muesli brand Carman’s is now selling via Amazon and Flipkart, having launched in February. The breakfast cereal market in India is estimated to be worth A$320m and growing at a CAGR of 18%.
  • Fruit importers note increased demand for apples, citrus and table grapes, and are keen to fulfil this demand with Australian produce. For example, a leading importer – IG International – is seeking imports of citrus, pear and kiwi from Australia to fulfil monthly orders for 2–3 containers. Citrus Australia is currently developing a five-year export strategy in which India will prominently figure.
  • Australian baking brands such as SalDoce Fine Foods are witnessing a rapid increase of 30–50% in monthly sales for products such as cake mixes and home-baking ingredients. This trend has continued even after lockdowns have been lifted.
  • Australian exports of almonds to India declined by 35% in 2019 as supplies were diverted to China. Nonetheless, India remains the single largest export market for Australian almonds. South India is a particular focus. 
  • There is soaring demand for soft cooking oils – especially sunflower, canola and soybean oils – according to importers. This is being driven by consumer demand for healthier food options. Total soft oil imports jumped from 4.95mn MT to 5.51mn MT year-on-year, while the imports for palm oil decreased from 8.63mn MT to 6.44mn MT this year. Palm oil is popular with the food service industry. Australia has emerged as a key supplier of canola oil in India with exports of over 500 MT in the last financial year.

Beverages

  • Wine sales in October 2020 were around 60% higher than in October 2019. This is partly due to the gradual opening of hotels and restaurants across the country after the lockdown. Online wine deliveries are increasing strongly in major cities, including Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru.
  • The Indian Armed Forces have stopped purchases of imported liquor including wines. This is part of the central governments ‘localisation’ drive. This will impact imported wines. The forces buy 100,000 cases of imported spirits and wines, and Australian brands currently have a 33% share of the imported wine market.
  • Australia’s award-winning Barokes Wines has launched its ‘wine in a can’ range in India. The brand is being imported by a Mumbai-based company and distributed across liquor retail chains in major cities. The brand is being positioned as an aspirational, affordable, on-the-go drink. Austrade is working on a wine-export diversification strategy to aid Australian beverages exporters.
  • Breweries are operating at less than 50% of capacity according to the All India Brewers Association. As a result, barley purchases fell 70 per cent following the harvest in April. It is therefore unlikely that India will import any barley this year. India is one of the largest brewing markets in the world with 83 breweries and 2.6 billion litres produced annually.
  • According to one Mumbai-based importer, there has been a double digit drop in sales of soft drinks during the pandemic. However, the importer recorded a 300% increase in sales of almond-milk products. This appears to indicate that Indian consumers are seeking healthier food and beverage options. This new trend opens export opportunities for Australian nut-milk exporters.
  • Wine sales may soon start to recover. An increase in online purchasing and home delivery is helping to raise sales in major cities, including Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. Australian vineyards currently have an approximate 30% share of India’s wine imports. September 2020 sales were down 50%, year on year.

Retail

  • Sales in India’s online grocery market could exceed A$4 billion in 2020 – a jump of 76% on 2019. With increased access to smartphones and low data costs, Indian consumers have taken to omni-channel shopping experiences. A rising focus on online sales is pushing retailers such as Foodhall to adopt an omni-channel model for retail, upgrading their warehouse management systems and investing more in last-mile connectivity to customers.
  • The retail sector was expected to recover to nearly 80% of pre COVID-19 sales by the end of December. The revival is being led by essentials and groceries, which account for 65% of the retail sector. The non-essential segment has picked up. As more stores commence operations, the category is expected to close the year with about 60–70% of last year’s sales.
  • Austrade is helping Australian lifestyle brands to launch successfully in India, including via e-commerce platforms. Brands currently available in India include Smiggle, Typo, Fab Slabs and aussieBum. Assistance includes helping to shape market entry, and advice on import tariffs and distribution channels. Austrade can also help brands find local partners, and has contacts with e-commerce platforms.
  • Health and wellness considerations are influencing food purchasing trends and new product launches in India. Healthkart, a large Indian health-focused e-commerce platform, says that young consumers (25–35 years) are increasingly likely to prioritise spend on nutraceuticals since the pandemic.
  • According to Nykaa, India’s largest omni-channel beauty retailer, COVID-19 continues to impact offline stores, with some shutting down. However, increasing online sales have helped recover some losses. Nykaa is using virtual reality shopping technology to give a real-life shopping experience to customers. Australian brands such as Swisse, Sand & Sky and Natio are now present on Nykka sites.
  • Amazon India and Flipkart are ramping up warehousing and logistical operations, expecting a significant lift in sales during the Indian festive season from October to December. Several Australian brands – including Active X and G&M Cosmetics – are being launched on Amazon. More than 35 Australian brands are already present on the platform.

Technology & e-commerce

  • The use of videos and similar content on social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat is driving traffic to e-commerce platforms. Australian brands like Swisse, Sand & Sky, Orgran Foods continue to engage in social media to build brand equity in India.
  • Fintech Australia and the Mumbai Fintech Hub organised a webinar on December 3 to help Australian clients identify opportunities for collaboration in the Indian fintech space. The event attracted 40-plus attendees. There are a growing number of partnerships between the Mumbai Fintech Hub and Fintech Australia.
  • India’s festival season will boost e-commerce. According to market research firm, Redseer, e-commerce sales are expected to leap in value to A$9.8 billion from A$5.8 billion last year. Austrade is working with Australian brands and their distributors to align inventory and new launches in the next two months. Austrade are also supporting several social media campaigns run by Australian brands as a build up to the festive season.
  • Investments in India’s fin-tech sector have more than doubled in the first six months of 2020, year-on-year. This suggests India's largest banks and insurance companies are investing in digital-economy technologies – including online banking and trading, and cyber security.

Health

  • Deakin University has teamed with AIIMS Jodhpur and IIT Jodhpur to begin clinical trials of medical devices for patients with neurological disorders. The program is the result of a  collaborative research program between Deakin and institutes in India.
  • Swisse has expanded offline distribution through ‘NewU’ stores across 36 cities in India. NewU is a large health and beauty retailer, owned by India’s leading consumer goods company Dabur. This is the first time that the Indian retailer is selling an imported health supplement brand following an initial focus on beauty products.
  • India’s drug and vaccine manufacturing industry is interested in partnering with institutions in Australia for joint collaboration, in-licensing and research.
  • Clinical research and pharmaceuticals companies are showing renewed interest in conducting clinical trials and joint research in Australia. According to sources, Indian medical care organisations continue to be receptive to Australian digital health products. Meanwhile, clinical research companies are collaborating well with Australian universities.

Resources

  • India’s largest METS expo, IMME 2020, has gone virtual and Austrade is coordinating an Australian Pavilion under a Partner Country status. The 60-day online event began on December 2. Approximately 20 companies are expected to participate in the virtual pavilion. IMME 2020 will allow Australian companies to showcase their products and services and to connect with potential partners.
  • Austrade is assisting DFAT’s outreach program with Indian stakeholders and potential customers to increase collaboration in critical and strategic minerals. Currently, Austrade is conducting a demand-side mapping exercise for critical minerals in India. A prioritisation plan has been drawn up covering aerospace, space, defence, electronics, renewable technologies, electric vehicles, paints and special steels.
  • Australian METS suppliers to India are continuing to win business in the region despite travel restrictions. Those with distributors in the market have used Webex and Zoom to pitch solutions to their customers and their in-market reps have helped them to close deals. Austrade is supporting numerous Australian METS by making connections.
  • Senior industry sources in India’s steel industry interpret the recent spate of mining policy reforms as heralding a greater presence of large private-sector players in the sector. These organisations would likely be more amenable to state-of-art METS from overseas, since they benchmark themselves against global best practice.

Energy

  • Covid-19–induced lockdowns have disrupted renewable energy supply chains, resulting in the addition of just 7GW during in the eight months to November 2020. This is 38% lower than the corresponding period of the previous year. Restrictions on the imports of inputs (panels and inverters) for solar power aggravated the constraints faced by the renewable energy project developers. Total renewable energy generation capacity currently stands at 90GW (~ 24% of the total capacity). 
  • Official data shows annual imports of around 56 million tons of coking coal worth around A$13.83 billion – and 45 million tons comes from Australia. It is reported that a major steel producer is now testing Russian coking coal, with the objective of diversifying supplies.
  • Coal India Group has issued a notice inviting offer (NIO) on a revenue-sharing basis for two projects for the extraction of coal bed methane. One is in West Bengal with an estimated gas in place of 2.20 billion cbm, and the other is in Jharkhand with 25 billion cbm. The project periods are for around 30 years. Australian drillers are receiving advice from Austrade, and should consider direct or ancillary drilling participation.
  • The government will invest A$830 million in the solar panel-manufacturing sector under the production linked incentive (PLI) scheme. The sector is now deemed ‘strategic’, and the policy aims to make solar supply chains more resilient. One company, Renew Power, has plans for both solar PV and possibly battery-manufacturing capabilities. Renew is assessing potential Australian technology tie-ups.
  • Australia is forging links with India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), resulting in a recent, widely attended virtual expo. The event indicates growing opportunities for Australian companies in India’s renewables sectors.
  • India will accelerate efforts to move towards a gas-based economy, according to Prime Minister Modi. However, the country will still prioritise energy security. Likely trends will include a cleaner use of fossil fuels particularly petroleum and coal, and a greater reliance on domestic sources to drive bio-fuels. The country aims to de-carbonise passenger vehicles and other transport modes – including by using hydrogen – and to generate 450GW of power from renewable sources by 2030. Austrade is helping to explore opportunities in storage solutions, LNG, hydrogen, renewables, and digital innovations and technology advancements.
  • As part of its efforts to reduce carbon emissions, Delhi authorities have opened a hydrogen-enriched compressed natural gas (HCNG) plant and dispensing station in New Delhi. A six-month trial in a fleet of 50 buses has started across the capital city. Austrade is working closely with key hydrogen-industry stakeholders in India, which includes policy making bodies like NITI Aayog and Hydrogen Association of India (HAI). It also includes commercial entities such as ReNew Power, ACME India and Reliance Industries.
  • India looks set to increase investment in LNG infrastructure to accommodate greater imports. The Government of India’s goal is to increase LNG’s contribution to India’s energy mix from 6% to 15% by 2030. Further details are available in this market insight.
  • Policy think tank, NITI Aayog, has launched an initiative under the ‘Advanced Chemistry Cell’ to bring production-linked incentives (PLIs) to manufacturers. India aims to have 50 GWh of battery-manufacturing capacity by 2026. Australian companies are well-positioned to supply much-needed material, including lithium, cobalt and nickel. Energy storage initiatives also presents opportunities for strategic partnerships. At A$3.3 billion, PLI incentives for the advanced chemistry cell battery-storage industry are comparatively high.
  • There are growing opportunities for Australian companies to contribute to India’s renewable power sector. This includes power trading, power-storage technologies, photo-voltaic manufacturing and wind energy. There are also opportunities to provide smart-metering and demand-side management solutions.

Construction & infrastructure

  • The smart warehousing industry is poised for rapid growth, part-triggered by the Government’s Sagarmala initiative. Overseas companies report that warehousing space is a great opportunity for investors and operators. This also applies to tech companies with warehousing solutions that use internet-of-things systems and smart devices.  
  • The Indian Government intends to disbar overseas companies from bidding for government procurement contracts that are worth up to A$40 million. The Government’s  objective is to encourage foreign companies to establish subsidiaries in India, and to help Indian companies become global brands via international partnerships.
  • Austrade and DFAT are working with Macquarie Infrastructure, which is now a major Australian investor in the Indian highways. The collaboration will showcase the best of Australian technologies and services in road safety to the Indian government. This project will create significant downstream opportunities for Australian SMEs.
  • Smaller real-estate developers are collaborating with corporatised developers to finish projects. Austrade has been working on a built environment initiative in the region since AIBX 2020 when more than 30 Australian companies connected with hundreds of Indian entities. Austrade continues to assist clients.
  • Austrade has engaged with the Indian Ports Association to identify opportunities for Australian companies after the Indian parliament passed the Major Port Authorities Bill this week. The bill will enable port charges to be competitive and introduce a single tariff structure for all ports. It will also introduce a landlord model for all ports – with an option for private players to operate. Of 204 ports in the country, 12 are major ports, including Kandla (Adani), Mumbai, JNPT and Cochin. These ports contribute almost 85% to India’s total port traffic.
  • Australian companies are winning contracts in India’s rail industry, including the new Mumbai–Ahmedabad high speed railway, which is currently under construction. This indicates an openness to Australian rail expertise and technology. In addition, Indian Railways are set to offer 109 passenger routes to the private sector. The tender is ongoing.   

Education

  • Amazon India has launched Amazon Academy, an online platform to help students prepare for their entrance exams to engineering colleges. The offering will equip students with curated learning material, live lectures and comprehensive assessments in Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry. Amazon’s entry into the EdTech sector demonstrates the growth potential of the sector, and collaboration opportunities for Australian ed-tech companies and institutes providing curriculum and technology in the market. 
  • Deakin University has signed a MoU with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Jodhpur. The MoU focusses on academic and research collaboration in Artificial intelligence, medical devices and cyber-physical systems. The partnership is designed to trigger joint academic programs for working professionals and Indian students at IIT Jodhpur. Doctoral students will gain joint PhD supervision.
  • Schools and training institutions will retain an interest in emerging cloud-based technologies and learning management systems (LMSs) when regular education activities return, according to a new ed-tech report. It says cloud technologies and LMSs are now acknowledged to deliver key benefits. These include: a wide impact on teaching resources, good learning outcomes, and the ability to focus on teacher-centric products.
  • A number of ed-tech platforms, such as Toppr, Udemy, Vedantu and WhiteHat Jr, have introduced skills-based ‘add-on’ courses. Their objective is to retain relevance as face-to-face learning resumes. This presents an opportunity for Australian ed-tech providers to explore partnership in this space in India. Austrade India is actively exploring partnership opportunities for Australian ed-tech companies in after-school education.
  • An Indian ed-tech company, UpGrad, is developing over 20,000 hours of test-preparation content. This provides an opportunity for Australian education providers and ed-tech companies to partner with UpGrad to jointly develop content for test preparation.

 Defence & manufacturing

  • India has accelerated its purchases of weapons in the wake of border tensions with China. For Australia, the Australia–India Comprehensive Strategic Partnership will help build connections with India’s defence sector and lays the foundation for enhanced collaboration and development. However, import embargoes and substitution policies (see below) will directly impact some opportunities.
  • The Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced an import embargo on 101 items.  This is a major push by India’s defence to reduce importation costs and support indigenous capabilities. The policy will be implemented progressively until 2024. The implication for Australian defence companies looking to export to India is that they will likely need to find local manufacturing/value-add partners, and share intellectual property.
  • The Japanese Government has added India to its manufacturing re-location scheme. This means companies that re-locate manufacturing from China to India may now be eligible for subsidies. The Japanese government wants to help its companies diversify their supply chains.

Bangladesh

Agriculture

  • Bangladesh is currently the second largest importer of cotton in the world, with ready-made garments accounting for nearly 80% of the country’s export revenue. This equates to imports of eight million bales a year. Consumption of cotton by Bangladeshi mills has recently increased by more than 10%, year on year.
  • After a slump in cotton imports due to the lockdown, most factories have resumed operations and commenced ordering cotton from overseas suppliers including Australia.
  • Australia exported A$200 million worth of raw cotton to Bangladesh during 2018–19. Currently, Australian exports to Bangladesh are approximately half the value of exports to China — A$200 million to A$432 million in the last financial year.
  • Austrade is working with Australian cotton exporters to help them resume shipments as local mills restart. Austrade is re-engaging key buyers.

Food

  • The Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) has introduced quality compliances checks and mandatory testing for food products like oats, cornflakes, potato chips, flavored milk, and baby food. The recent move is in response to the discovery that adulterated products have been sold during the COVID-19 lockdown. The BSTI is focused on consumer protection, and will introduce QR codes and its own brand stamp to help ensure quality. The new testing rule is expected to delay the launch of some Australian brands in Bangladesh.
  • Fruit imports are on the rise, with Australian citrus, apples and grapes in high demand. Imports of fruit rose 28% in the July–September quarter, year on year. Demand for fruit that is perceived to boost immune systems appears the main cause. Australia is now a major supplier, with regular shipments from exporters such as Vitor Marketing and Simfresh.
  • Luxury hotels in Chattogram (Chittagong) and Dhaka have witnessed a 60% drop in business due to COVID-19. This has affected sales of Australian premium produce such as meat and salmon. A majority of importers are now directing their Australian brands to supermarkets including e-commerce platforms.
  • Wheat consumption has doubled in the past six years thanks to changing food habits and increased demand for bakery. Bangladesh imported 6.73 million tonnes (mt) of wheat last financial year compared to 3.1 mt in 2014–15. Imported whole grains are gaining in popularity due to perceived health benefits. Approximately 85 percent of Bangladesh’s annual wheat demand of ~7.7 mt is met by imports, which is increasing thanks to the absence of tariffs. Australia has a minor share of this trade, with the bulk of Australian exports to South Asia heading to India. Austrade is working with exporters to increase wheat exports to Bangladesh, undertaking outreach to bakery and other wheat-processing companies.
  • Australia exported 27,310 tonnes of chickpeas during September 2020 according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Bangladesh was once more the single largest export market, taking over 11,000 tonnes.
  • Australian milk-powder exports worth A$20 million in 2019 are growing on the back of increased consumer demand in Bangladesh. Exporters including Fonterra and AGRI-BEST have sent several shipments this year and signed contracts for the rest of the year. It is predicted that demand from the food manufacturing sector will increase by 40 per cent by 2025. Bangladesh imported 1.5 million tonnes of milk powder last financial year, and imports are projected to grow by 18 per cent this year.
  • Most Australian brands continue to be sold via supermarkets, and sales of have grown 40–50% during the pandemic. Unimart – a premium supermarket chain – has expanded its digital offerings with an omni-channel solution for Australian brands. The retailer recently ran a promotional campaign featuring Western Australia-based Harvey Fresh and New South Wales-based Oak Milk. Unimart is working with Austrade to import more brands from Australia.
  • The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) will implement a A$146 million food value chain-development project to process agricultural products and expand agribusiness in Bangladesh. This project will enhance logistics and storage facilities for fresh produce and likely stimulate greater trade. Australia is one of the major sources of grapes and citrus in Bangladesh with exports worth A$7.6 million last year. Supply chain upgrades will expand opportunities to export strawberries, blueberries and stone fruit to Bangladesh

Technology & e-commerce

  • The government has proposed new e-commerce guidelines to protect consumers and develop the e-commerce sector. E-commerce has experienced a boom amid the pandemic and new guidelines will relate to delivery time limits, reimbursement and failed deliveries. Alibaba-backed Daraz says the move will substantially improve confidence amongst Bangladesh consumers. The e-commerce market in Bangladesh is currently worth $A1.7 billion and is projected to be worth A$4.5 billion by 2025.
  • Consumers are embracing e-commerce like never before. Alibaba-owned Daraz and Chaldal have reported 100% monthly increases in their sales over the last few months. The federal government is investing in logistics and supply chain improvements to promote the e-commerce market. This is currently worth A$1.7 billion and projected to be worth A$4.5 billion by 2025. Austrade is working with leading e-commerce platforms to introduce more Australian brands across top-selling categories such as shelf-stable processed food, personal care items, health supplements and wellness foods, such as gluten-free snacks.

Defence & manufacturing

  • The Japanese Government has added Bangladesh to its manufacturing re-location scheme. This means companies that re-locate manufacturing from China to Bangladesh or India may now be eligible for subsidies. The Japanese government wants to help its companies diversify their supply chains.

Sri Lanka

Food & Agriculture

  • Austrade has secured a dedicated landing page for Australian brands on Sri Lanka’s leading supermarket chain’s e-commerce platform, www.keellsuper.com. The Australian store will include over 17 Australian brands and run until Australia Day celebrations. Participating include Fruitco, Juice Crush, Leggos, San Remo, Masterfoods. This project is part of larger Austrade’s e-commerce strategy to provide export opportunities via e-commerce platforms in the South Asia region.
  • Temporary import restrictions since March have resulted in a decline of Australian exports of dairy, processed food and wines. Dairy imports are currently down 50%, year on year. Importers currently require 90 days of supplier’s credit to import many items.
  • Demand for lentils remains strong. Australia exported 18,000 tonnes of lentils in the third quarter, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Sri Lanka is Australia’s second largest lentil market after India and Australia meets more than half of the country’s demand. Australian lentils are also re-exported from Sri Lanka after being split and re-packaged. Demand for high-quality, whole lentils will likely increase as the Government encourages development of a domestic food-processing industry.
  • Sri Lankan food service companies are diversifying their sales channels. Sri Lankan Catering – previously an exclusive airline catering company – has begun selling meals across retail channels. The company was a major buyer of Australian fresh produce and bakery ingredients, and exports have suffered a big hit since March/April.
  • The Sri Lankan Government is introducing new import duties on imported fresh, frozen and dried fish. Duties on fresh and frozen fish will increase to Lkr 200 rupees per kg.  Duties on dried fish will range from Lkr 127 to 302 per kg.
  • The Sri Lankan Government has unveiled an ambitious plan to increase milk production in the country by importing dairy cows and developing private-public partnerships to increase milk production. Sri Lanka currently imports around 80,000 metric tons of milk powder (Australia exports around 5,000 metric tons), and aims to convert this import reliance into domestic-led milk production in the country. Austrade is working with local companies in scoping out export opportunities for dairy technology and services companies.
  • The Sri Lankan government has unveiled plans to replace 20,000 hectares of land earmarked for palm oil plantation in the country. The government appears keen on canola or sunflower oils. Sri Lanka imported over 150,732 metric tonnes of edible oil last year and the Government is keen to reduce import dependence. Austrade is scoping export opportunities for canola and sunflower seeds with planters associations.
  • Temporary import restrictions instituted in March 2020 have affected the supply of Australian grains and pulses to Sri Lanka. Although there is no import ban on grains, the lack of foreign exchange has resulted in payment delays for Australian exporters. Currently, banks in Sri Lanka are struggling to secure sufficient US dollars to enable importers to pay for goods. This temporary suspension has also affected other Australian imports such as processed food and wine. Importers currently require 90 days of supplier credit.
  • The federal government is expected to issue new meat import licenses – in particular, for beef – as it contemplates a ban on the slaughter of cattle for religious reasons. Food importers anticipate an increase in beef imports alongside import duty reductions. With a population of 21 million, Sri Lanka currently consumes around 37.8 million tonnes per year, excluding demand from the hospitality industry. Australia is currently the largest beef exporter to Sri Lanka, supplying 1,000 tonnes out a total 1,116 tonnes last financial year. The slaughter ban is expected to benefit Australia, which has an established beef-export supply chain. Exports from Australia reach Sri Lanka quickly: in 3–4 weeks as compared to 8 weeks from competitors such as the US.

Fast moving consumer goods

  • Australian brands such as Edgell, Leggos, Sanitarium and FruitCo have listed their products on the new Keells e-commerce platform. Keells Super is the second largest supermarket chain in Sri Lanka. Like other retailers, Keells are focussed on setting up e-commerce platforms in the country. Thanks to the pandemic, e-commerce purchases in the FMCG category are expected to grow from 20% to 70%. Austrade is helping companies pursue e-commerce strategies in Sri Lanka.

Education

  • The President of Sri Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has emphasised the need to reform the country’s education system and wants student-centric education system to replace exam-centric education. The objective is to encourage more students to attend university.

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