NEW DELHI: India is expected to extend lines of credit (LoC) to least developed African countries for joint venture business initiatives in agriculture sector to enhance engagement in the segment, a top official said today.

Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia said huge opportunities exists in agriculture sector in India and Africa.

“We hope to extend lines of credit to joint venture agri business initiatives in Africa to deepen our engagement in the agri sector particularly in LDCs (least developed countries) and thereby help to support food security in both our regions,” she said at the India Africa AgriBusiness Forum organised by Ficci.

India also support the LDCs in trade initiatives through ‘Duty Free Tariff Preference’ scheme, which came into effect in August 2008, Teaotia said.

“We now provide 98.2 per cent of our tariff lines (products)… to LDCs. Out of the 34 LDCs in Africa, 21 countries have already begun to avail the benefits of the scheme and 13 are yet to become beneficiaries.

“We sincerely hope these countries too will come on board soon and use the access to India’s market,” she added.

Under the scheme, import of most products from least developed nations to India attract lower duties.

Further, Teaotia said the Department of Commerce runs a Cotton Technical Assistance Programme for cotton growing African nations.

“Cotton is certainly an important crop in Africa as it is in India, but in many countries it continues to be exported as raw material without too much of value addition. The programme is an initiative to strengthen the cotton and textile sector in selected countries (of Africa),” she said.

She added the programme has helped in capacity building in R&D, improving post-harvest practices and has also led to far greater movement in the value chain and development in the textile andĀ apparel sector.

“I believe that such programmes can be used as triggers to the policy objectives of the government’s in Africa in order to ensure that there is proper transfer of technology and there is a mechanism by which it can be done,” she added.

The programme was initially started in four countries — Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali.

“But it was extended thereafter to Malawi, Nigeria and Uganada and as agreed in the recent Africa Forum meet, it would further be expanded to Ghana, Togo, Tanzania and Zambia over the five-year period,” she said.

Both the regions can increase collaboration in areas like food processing and plant tissue culture to enhance food grain productivity, she added.