As U.S.-China trade row grows, India urges China to drop meal import ban: sources

XIAN/NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India has urged China to drop a years-long ban on rapeseed meal imports from the South Asian nation at a meeting with government officials and feedmakers as it aims to boost sales of critical farm goods amid growing U.S.-China trade tensions.

FILE PHOTO: Farmer Baldev Singh works in his rapeseed field on the outskirts of the northern Indian city of Amritsar, India November 25, 2008. REUTERS/Munish Sharma/File Photo

The meeting was held at India’s embassy in Beijing on Wednesday, according to an Indian government official and a soymeal purchasing manager at a pig farmer who attended and spoke to Reuters on the sidelines of an industry conference here on Thursday.

The aim was to lobby China to resume purchases of rapeseed meal, a key ingredient in animal feed, and to drum up interest in the country’s other major agricultural products, the two said.

China was the biggest buyer of Indian rapeseed meal until Beijing banned the purchases in late 2011 over quality concerns. China imported Indian oilseeds worth $161 million in 2011.

“The meeting in China ended without any concrete results, but there will be more meetings in China and Delhi on this issue,” said an Indian government official who did not wish to be named in line with government policy.

A copy of the meeting schedule, reviewed by Reuters, described it as a meeting of buyers and sellers, with a session introducing India’s exporters followed by one-on-one meetings between importers and exporters.

The lobbying highlights how countries are rushing to deepen trade ties with China, the world’s largest agricultural market, as hefty tariffs on U.S. goods, including soybeans, threaten supplies of ingredients used in animal feed.

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Soybeans, used to make meal for animal feed, were the United States’ biggest agricultural export to China last year worth $12.7 billion.

China has also been seeking alternative sources of critical ingredients in animal feed, such as rapemeal.

In July, Beijing removed tariffs on soybeans, soymeal and rapeseed from five Asian countries, including India,

But China’s domestic feed industry is still concerned about the quality of Indian product, said the soymeal purchasing manager. He declined to be identified as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

Beijing prohibited imports after tests showed some cargoes were contaminated with malachite green, a dye widely used in India to brand grain sacks.

Speakers on Wednesday included the managing director of India’s state-run National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (NAFED), Sanjeev Kumar Chadha, and Rong Weidong, vice president of China’s Chamber of Commerce of Foodstuffs and Native Produce (CFNA).

A CFNA official confirmed Weidong made a speech, but did not give further details.

“Despite a few rounds of negotiations, unfortunately there is no clarity at all about the procedure that Indian traders have to follow to export rapeseed meal to China,” said B. V. Mehta, executive director of the Solvent Extractors’ Association of India, who was briefed on the meeting.

“The same holds true for soymeal.”

Reporting by Hallie Gu in XIAN and Mayank Bhardwaj in NEW DELHI; Writing by Josephine Mason in BEIJING; Editing by Tom Hogue and Richard Pullin