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Outline of opportunities in India

January 2020

An overview of one of the fastest growing economies

India is the second most populous country in the world with 1.3 billion and is one of the fastest growing economies in the world with a Can$3.6 trillion gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018. India has the potential to become one of Canada's most important economic and commercial partners as India registered world imports of Can$28 billion in agri-food and seafood products in 2018.

India is a net exporter of agri-food and seafood products. In 2018, the India agri-food and seafood trade surplus was Can$22.2 billion with exports valued at Can$50.2 billion, and Can$28 billion in imports. India imported a wide variety of agri-food and seafood products with their top imports being palm oil, edible fruit and nuts, soybean oil, sunflower seed oil and edible vegetables. Key supplying countries were Indonesia, Ukraine, United States, Argentina and Malaysia.

Major sector opportunities in India

To discover more information, strengths, opportunities and considerations for Canadian agri-food and seafood, please see our Asian agri-food market intelligence reports.

How do we select priority sectors?

The sectors were prioritized through a quantitative analysis of the data available in the Global Trade Tracker database for 2019. The first phase was to identify the top 100 products, amongst all agri-food and seafood products, ruling out the products which Canada does not have a capacity to produce. Each product was evaluated based on a series of quantitative criteria (that is, size of market, market growth, Canada's trade intensity, and tariff reductions), all of which were ranked over ten years of historical trade data. The top 100 products identified through this method represented, in 2018, 97% of India's total imports from the world, and 99.9% of Canada's exports to India.

Our analysis focused on assessing opportunities from a strengths and challenges perspective:

  1. Strengths were defined by those performance commodities that were both high in performance and in growth within large Indian import sectors.
  2. Challenges were defined by the issues that industry might face while trying to take advantage of market opportunities.

During phase two, the products were further categorized into eighteen super sectors. These have been assessed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), Global Affairs Canada (GAC), and ten provincial experts through a survey to further determine the opportunities and challenges associated with those product categories, in the Indian context.

All priority agri-food and seafood products are both imported by India and are products which are within Canada's capacity to produce and supply internationally.

Growth through processing

While India is an important market for commodity exports, Canada also has the potential to increase exports within the processed food and beverages category. As of 2018, Canada supplied over Can$14 million in processed food and beverages to the Indian market (enabling further opportunity for trade) at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.3% since 2014. High-performing commodities include lactose in solid form, food preparations, forage products, pet food and oil cake.

In 2018, processed food and beverages represented 4.5% of all Canadian agri-food and seafood products shipped to India.

It is in Canada's best interest to promote differentiated, high-value, unique and niche products. Beyond Canadian maple products, which represented 18.5% of the Can$781,434 maple products imported by India in 2018, Canadian exporters have an opportunity to position other products such as lactose-free, food preparations and forage products, that buyers can identify, and attribute to Canada.

Exporters can take advantage of Canada's brand and positive image to enhance their product offerings to the Indian market, but must invest the time and resources to differentiate their products within a competitive and price-sensitive marketplace.

Canada's top processed food and beverages imported by India, 2018
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  • Lactose: 33.3%
  • Food preparations, not elsewhere specified (n.e.s.): 11.7%
  • Forage products: 9.6%
  • Pet food: 7.1%
  • Oil cake: 6.0%
  • Other: 32.3%

Source: Global Trade tracker, 2019

Food preparations, not elsewhere specified (n.e.s.) (as defined in Global Trade Tracker as India importing from Canada January-December 2018); Food preparations, not elsewhere specified or included, containing other food preparations, n.e.s, food flavouring material, soft drink other than sharbat and betel nut product known as supari.

Canada has a significant comparative advantage in the production of many high-quality commodities in the grains and oilseed sectors, as well as other areas, such as pulses. While the Indian market has been very responsive to those Canadian products often sold in bulk, there has been recent trade restrictions imposed on pulse importations from Canada to respond to the local pulse crisis in 2017, which Canadian authorities are working to address. With one of the largest populations in the world, the dietary requirements of Indian consumers are evolving, requiring more innovative products, such as easy-to-use packaging or products sold in smaller portion sizes. Health related products, such as fortified, functional and naturally healthy foods, are also of very high importance. Furthermore, with a growing number of couples with children and extended families, single-person and childless households, as well as a forecasted increase in the number of professional females, combined with consumers' busy lifestyles, products offering a high level of convenience, such as ready meals and frozen processed foods are increasing in demand.

Canada's competition

As of 2018, Canada was ranked twenty-eighth among the supplying countries to the Indian food market and was responsible for 0.6% of the total Can$27.8 billion agri-food and seafood market. The Indian processed food and beverage imports were valued at Can$17.8 billion in 2018, with Canada representing 0.1% of that total. Indonesia, Ukraine, Argentina, Malaysia, and Brazil were the largest suppliers of processed food and beverage to India in 2018, providing 73% of the total market.

Canada's main competitors for India's global imports in processed food and beverage products, their share and top 3 products in 2018
Country Share of India's imports from the world (%) Top three processed food and beverages India imports from the world (commodity's share %)
Indonesia 28.3 Crude palm oil (63), palm oil (32.1), crude palm kernel (2)
Ukraine 14.0 Crude sunflower oil (98.4), oilcake (0.7), crude soybean oil (0.6)
Argentina 11.7 Crude soybean oil (94.2), crude sunflower oil (4.5), lecithins (0.6)
Malaysia 10.4 Crude palm oil (80.1), palm oil (13), crude palm kernel oil (3)
Brazil 8.1 Raw cane sugar (50.4), crude soybean oil (48), pectic substances (0.5)
Source: Global Trade Tracker 2019

Opportunities for Canada

Canada-India relations are underpinned by political, economic and cultural ties which are strengthened by common values and mutual positive perceptions. Today, both countries are partners in numerous international groups and organizations and are strongly committed to ensuring continued economic vitality, cooperative political relations, and development in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Market access

India has strict import requirements for many products and Canadian exporters are responsible for determining these import conditions by working with their Indian importer. However, the Market Access Secretariat (MAS) of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is also available to assist in providing export-related information and support. This service offers a single point of contact with the goal of helping the Canadian food industry and businesses reach international markets.

If you have questions about exporting your agriculture or food products, or are looking for support please contact the Market Access Secretariat at

Related content

To find trade events, in-market Trade Commissioners, marketing tools and more to help you achieve your international business goals, please visit the Agri-Food Trade Services for Exporters page.

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