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India does not swallow Spanish food


New Delhi, December 14 (EFE).- The lack of specific products or skills, the lack of knowledge and a strong protectionist market with strict import restrictions prevent Spanish gastronomy from transferring its prestige to India, a country of 1.4 billion consumers who can’t swallow products from Spain.

Paella, croquettes, Iberian ham or other characteristic dishes of Spanish cuisine barely find their place on the menus of the thousands of restaurants that claim to serve European food in India, which instead opt for other flavors more appreciated in the subcontinent, of Italian or French gastronomy.

“Spain has traditionally not looked so much towards India and has focused on other markets that are closer geographically and culturally, such as Europe and Latin America,” the international trade counselor at the Spanish Embassy in India, Clara Antúnez, told EFE. has caused “some scarcity of Spanish produce in India.”

Although India’s “interest in Spain is increasing”, the official specified that Spain is already starting late compared to the rest of the European countries, whose cuisines are much better established in the Asian country.

Pasta and pizza are essential in any establishment that wants to stand out as a European restaurant in India, albeit always with a spicy touch to adapt to Indian palates, while French cafes are common in the country’s malls and affluent markets. Asian.

A greater presence, which Antúnez attributes beyond tradition to the greater complexity of some dishes in Spanish cuisine, which require “a certain skill in preparation and specific utensils that are not usually available in India,” unlike the pizza or other popular options , which is simpler and faster to make.

Many Spanish companies have wanted to take advantage of this void in one of the most recognized cuisines in the world, seeing this market of more than 1.4 billion consumers with a growing middle class as a vein to exploit.

However, they all point to a major filter that limits or directly prevents their entry into the country: a protectionist market with very serious entry barriers in the form of high export tariffs.

The company in the oil sector Acesur is one of the last to explore this gateway on the occasion of a business mission from the European Union (EU) to India, where more than fifty European companies were present to look for partners in the country and get in-depth knowledge of the complex process of entering the Indian market.

“From the exporter’s point of view, the problem is primarily the tariff issue. The product has a tariff of between 30 and 40% depending on the oil category and it penalizes us a lot when it comes to competing,” he said. EFE, its commercial director for South Asia, Juan González.

Import rates are also high for other products characteristic of Spanish cuisine, such as meat and fish, at 30%; rice, 80%; or alcohol, which amounts to 150%.

Spain was the largest exporter of olive oil to India by value and volume in 2022, billing nearly $55 million last year, according to data from the Spanish Embassy’s Commercial Office.

‘Preparations of vegetables, fruits or other nuts or other parts of plants’ with an export value of $10 million; and the items ‘beverages, alcoholic liquids and vinegar’, which accounted for $7.6 million last year, were the rest of the most exported products.

This restrictive policy is similar to the ‘Made in India’ policy promoted by the Asian country to reverse its imbalanced balance of payments by promoting local production and consumption.

To alleviate this tariff pressure, the EU last year resumed negotiations to reach a free trade agreement (FTA) with India, after talks were suspended in 2013 after six failed years.

“It is a complicated market. We have many trade, tariff and non-tariff barriers, and that is why we are negotiating a free trade agreement,” the EU ambassador to India, Hervé Delphin, told EFE.

“Between regions, there are different levels of taxes. Your goods cannot move freely from one region to another, from one state to another, because there are different kinds of taxes. It’s a level of complexity. I would say that regardless what tax deal is free trade that we achieve will have to deal with this range of regulatory environments,” he added.

The landing of more Spanish companies in India will depend on the success of these negotiations, with new products hoping to find their way and coexist with the unique Indian gastronomy.

Hugo Barcia

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