CAI trims cotton crop estimate for 2018-19 to 340 lakh bales

The Cotton Association of India on December 7 lowered its November estimate of the cotton crop by three lakh bales to 340.25 lakh bales for the 2018-19 season.

The decline in cotton crop estimate is mainly due to unfavourable weather conditions, CAI said in a statement.

Last month, the association had estimated cotton output at 343.25 lakh bales for the 2018-19 season, which began on October 1.

CAI reduced the crop estimate for Gujarat by three lakh bales, Maharashtra by one lakh bales and Telangana by 1.50 lakh bales.

However, it increased the crop estimate for Haryana by one lakh bales and upper Rajasthan, lower Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh by 50,000 bales each.

The association has projected total cotton supply during October and November at 95 lakh bales, which consists of the arrival of 70 lakh bales up to November 30, imports of two lakh bales and the opening stock at the beginning of the season as on October 1, that the CAI has estimated at 23 lakh bales.

Further, the association has estimated cotton consumption during October and November at 54 lakh bales, while the export shipment of cotton up to November 30, at 10 lakh bales.

The stock at the end of November 2018 is estimated at 31 lakh bales, including 27 lakh bales with textile mills and the remaining four lakh bales estimated to be held by Cotton Corporation Of India (CCI) and others (MNCs, traders, ginners among others).

The total cotton supply till end of the season is estimated at 390.25 lakh bales of 170 kg each, which includes opening stock of 23 lakh bales at the beginning of the season, cotton crop for the season at 340.25 lakh bales and imports of 27 lakh bales, which are estimated to be higher by 12 lakh bales, compared with the import figure of 15 lakh bales estimated for the 2017-18 crop year.

The CAI has estimated domestic consumption for the season at 324 lakh bales, while the exports at 53 lakh bales, which is lower by 16 lakh bales against the exports of 69 lakh bales estimated during last year.

The carry-over stock at the end of the 2018-19 season is estimated at 13.25 lakh bales.


Five Ways To Prepare Your Business For Small Business Saturday

young smiling customer looking excited and carrying many paper bags in clothes shopGetty

American Express’ Small Business Saturday has fast become an American tradition for the Saturday following Black Friday. Small businesses across the country will be celebrating the ninth year of this annual shopping event on Saturday, November 24. It can mean a big day of sales; in 2017 alone, consumers spent almost $13 million. Gear up your small businaess to make the most of profits this Small Business Saturday with these five tips.

1. Promote your participation as soon as possible.

American Express offers materials and resources you can use to promote your business and sales. You can create customizable online, in-store and social media marketing materials. This is a cost-effective way to promote your participation. Print signs and banners at a local printer to support another neighborhood business and get your materials sooner. 

2. Prepare digitally.

Online shopping is increasing every year. Make sure your website is up to date with available inventory, all promotional offers and holiday hours. In 2017, almost half of all online retail traffic during the holiday shopping season came from a smartphone, according to data from Adobe. You don’t want to miss out on that traffic, so be sure to check that your website is mobile-friendly for customers shopping on the go.

Schedule social media posts announcing your participation in Small Business Saturday and any sales in advance by spending an afternoon planning out your posts. Reach new customers by advertising with Google Adwords, Twitter and Facebook. You can provide consumers with a customized experience by launching geo-targeted ads to your desired audience.

3. Prepare your team.

The holiday season often requires more employees, but hiring seasonal help can be a challenging process. Get a head start by accepting applications in early November, and in order to get the best help, accept applications in person and online.


Once your team is in place, training is imperative. Customer service should be your No. 1 priority on Small Business Saturday, and your employees need the necessary skills to help make that priority happen. Teach all your employees to help customers find the proper products, and explain which additional products would complement the rest of their order. Remember, this is the perfect opportunity to turn first-time visitors into life-long customers.

4. Prepare your inventory.

Your distributors may be flooded with other client orders before Small Business Saturday and the rest of the holiday season, so place your orders well in advance. It is essential to have enough inventory to last the weekend, but you should also be judicious in how much you order. You don’t want to run the risk of overstocking. Review your previous year’s performance to get an idea of how much you need to order. Even if you did not actively participate in Small Business Saturday last year, many consumers knowingly shopped at small businesses that weekend. That means previous years’ sales can provide you with a good starting point.

5. Prepare your financing.

Additional employees, marketing materials and inventory will require additional working capital. Finance your Small Business Saturday campaigns by finding the right financing fit to help. You can calculate how much you’ll need to finance your campaigns or secure more inventory by reviewing your previous budget and sales from the prior years.

Some business funding options include SBA loans, merchant cash advances, lines of credit, term loans and invoice factoring. Your financing needs and your business’s credit score will help determine which type of financing option is best. The length of time you can repay the amount you’re looking to borrow is also an important factor in your decision, and the age of your business can affect which products are available to you.

Preparation is key to a successful Small Business Saturday. Consumers will be inundated with messages about Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But with some careful planning, you can stand out from your competition, both big and small.


Auto industry braces for impact as India begins shift to electric vehicles

The emergence of electric vehicles means a new ecosystem will have to be built and a lot of component manufacturers who make engine parts, pistons, rubber tubes, etc, will have to shut shop or adapt. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

The emergence of electric vehicles means a new ecosystem will have to be built and a lot of component manufacturers who make engine parts, pistons, rubber tubes, etc, will have to shut shop or adapt. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

New Delhi: Abhay Firodia is not perturbed by the possible impact that the advent of electric vehicles may have on the ecosystem for automobiles.

“Bank employees went on strike when they were introduced to computers,” the 73-year-old chairman of Force Motors Ltd, Pune-based light commercial vehicle manufacturer, and president of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, or Siam, told Mint last year when asked if the industry has assessed the impact of such a gigantic shift towards electric vehicles.

The government plans to switch to electric vehicles by 2030, which has now been described by road transport minister Nitin Gadkari as unofficial.

Firodia may have been unconcerned about the changes that the industry may have to undergo but the Automotive Component Manufacturers Association of India (Acma), the industry lobby that represents companies who do business worth Rs1.45 trillion, rushed to NITI Aayog in December. The idea was to express concern to the government that a sudden move to large-scale adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) could lead to massive job losses.

“Suppliers are underestimating the speed of change, while being 7-8 years behind global peers on tech… leading to a significant impending local threat from global peers,” Acma told NITI Aayog in presentation reviewed by Mint.

“With industry investments and jobs at stake, the country cannot afford to lose the domestic component industry in her quest for EVs,” Acma said, suggesting that millions of jobs could be at stake if there is a sudden moves towards electric vehicles.

It was a desperate plea, especially given the fact that internal combustion engines (ICE), which are used in most cars, have more than 2,000 moving parts, while an electric vehicle has about 20, resulting in fewer breakdowns. Among the parts that will see demand dry up once electric vehicles dominate in India, are engines, transmission, aluminium castings, cylinder blocks and cast iron. These will give way to an electric motor run by batteries.

The Acma presentation said the ICE powertrain contributes to over 60% of the employment generation in the auto component sector, and that a switch to 100% electric could impact up to 5.6 million jobs by 2025-26.

Automobile component manufacturers are known as the bedrock of the industry across the globe.

Siam in concurrence with the NITI Aayog, has proposed that 40% of vehicles in India would be shifted to electric while vehicles used for public transport would be 100% shifted to electric by 2030.

The emergence of electric vehicles means a new ecosystem will have to be built and a lot of component manufacturers who make engine parts, pistons, rubber tubes, etc, will have to shut shop or adapt.

According to Vinnie Mehta, director general, ACMA, the government should come up with a technology-agnostic road map for the development of sustainable mobility solutions for the future.

“As of now there is uncertainty among component manufacturers as to how their business will be impacted with the advent of electric vehicles. A coherent policy framework is the need of the hour,” Mehta said.

The long-term investment in the automobile component industry means a period of five years and some manufacturers of rubber tubes, air filters and pistons are in a quandary over whether to go in for improving their manufacturing capacities or not.

“People in the industry are definitely apprehensive of investing more since there is no clear road map. Though by 2030 the ICE engines would also substantially grow, the focus of the car maker would change to EVs. It will be a game changer in terms of technology, so if you are making an engine or its spare parts now then you’ve got to be feeling threatened for the long-term future,” said a top executive of a major component manufacturing company.

But some are ready for the challenge.

Mahindra Group’s auto component arm Mahindra CIE Automotive Ltd “is prepared for the EV drive and will continue to watch the trend,” according to its chairman Hemant Luthra.

Almost 9% of Mahindra CIE’s components in India go into ICEs, while the global share is 19%.

“There has been an internal realization that these shares must be reduced,” said Luthra, adding that the government’s announcement has alerted the firm to channel research and development (R&D) efforts towards EVs.

The long-term investment in the automobile component industry means a period of five years and some manufacturers of rubber tubes, air filters and pistons are in a quandary over whether to go in for improving their manufacturing capacities or not.

“It has also made us sensitive to the fact that our acquisitions should not be overly dependent on IC Engines,” he added.

The Mumbai-based automobile manufacturer is a “strong supporter of electrification, and has the engineering talent and R&D capability to design EV components,” according to Luthra. “Not much capacity addition is required since existing machining systems can address EV requirements; besides, it doesn’t make sense to put up a production line solely for EVs, given the low volumes,” he added.

Manav Kapur, executive director Steelbird International Ltd, New Delhi-based rubber and filter component manufacturer, thinks that the auto component industry is headed for total disruption with the impending changeover.

“With the reduced complexity, a very limited number of components and low maintenance cost of the EVs, the number of jobs lost could be as high as 80% at the auto components manufacturers and automotive workshops level,” said Kapur.

Analysts say a lot of the apprehensions are unfounded because the demand for IC engine-run vehicles will grow in the next decade-and-a-half despite a shift to electric vehicles. In order to cater to the demand, component manufacturers will have to invest in their existing business and increase capacity.

For example Maruti Suzuki has told its vendors to increase their respective capacities in Gujarat in the near term since the company is looking at a target of selling 2.5 million vehicles by 2025. In that case, the component manufacturers will have to invest more.

Anurag Mehrotra, managing director, Ford India Pvt. Ltd, said that full electrification will not happen in the near future and that IC engines are going to be in the play. Besides, there will be export opportunities for component manufacturers. In the last twelve to eighteen months, there has been some aggressive positioning by Indian automotive companies for exports.

A senior industry executive said the automobile industry, unlike the electronics manufacturing industry, has not re-invented itself in the past two decades, which is why the prospects of disruption is making it jittery.

For some manufacturers, the emergence of electric vehicles as a category will provide new avenues where they can explore new opportunities.

According to Vivek Chaand Sehgal, chairman, Samvardhana Motherson Group, a Noida-based auto component manufacturer, whether it is the core business or readying for technology- driven innovations like connected cars, electrification of vehicles or light weighting, the concentration is on providing solutions that customers need.

“Towards this, there is a three-pronged approach—to do things within the group, to join hands with partners through joint ventures or explore acquisitions, all of them leading back to the philosophy of providing solutions when the customer needs it,” added Sehgal.

Indian component manufacturers have to collaborate with companies who have the requisite technologies and embrace them, or run the risk of losing their turf, especially to Chinese companies, according to the ACMA presentation to NITI Aayog.


RBI’s New Norms On Bad Loans A Wake Up Call For Defaulters, Says Government

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Banks will face penalties in case of failure to comply with the guidelines, RBI said.

New Delhi: In a bid to hasten the resolution of bad loans, RBI has tightened rules to make banks identify and tackle any non-payment of loan rapidly, a move the government said should act as a “wake up call” for defaulters. The Reserve Bank of India abolished half a dozen existing loan-restructuring mechanisms late last night, and instead provided for a strict 180-day timeline for banks to agree on a resolution plan in case of a default or else refer the account for bankruptcy.

Financial Services Secretary Rajiv Kumar said the new rules are a “wake up call” for defaulters.

“The government is determined to clean up things in one go and not defer it. It is a more transparent system for resolution,” he said,” he told PTI here.

Under the new rules, insolvency proceedings would have to be initiated in case of a loan of Rs. 2,000 crore or more if a resolution plan is not implemented within 180 days of the default.

Banks will face penalties in case of failure to comply with the guidelines, RBI said.

Financial Services Secretary said the RBI’s decision would not have much impact on provisioning norms for banks.

The revised framework has specified norms for “early identification” of stressed assets, timelines for implementation of resolution plans, and a penalty on banks for failing to adhere to the prescribed timelines.

RBI has also withdrawn the existing mechanism which included Corporate Debt Restructuring Scheme, Strategic Debt Restructuring Scheme (SDR) and Scheme for Sustainable Structuring of Stressed Assets (S4A).

The Joint Lenders’ Forum (JLF) as an institutional mechanism for resolution of stressed accounts also stands discontinued, it said, adding that “all accounts, including such accounts where any of the schemes have been invoked but not yet implemented, shall be governed by the revised framework”.

Under the new rules, banks must report defaults on a weekly basis in the case of borrowers with more than Rs. 5 crore of loan. Once a default occurs, banks will have 180 days within which to come up with a resolution plan. Should they fail, they will need to refer the account to the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) within 15 days.

Last year, the government had given more powers to the RBI to push banks to deal with non-performing assets (NPAs) or bad loans.

The gross NPAs of public sector and private sector banks as on September 30, 2017 were Rs.7,33,974 crore, Rs. 1,02,808 crore respectively.

“In view of the enactment of the IBC, it has been decided to substitute the existing guidelines with a harmonised and simplified generic framework for resolution of stressed assets,” RBI said in the notification.

As per the revised guidelines, the banks will be required to identify incipient stress in loan accounts, immediately on default, by classifying stressed assets as special mention accounts (SMAs) depending upon the period of default.

Classification of SMA would depend on the number of days (1- 90) for which principal or interest have remained overdue.

“As soon as there is a default in the borrower entity’s account with any lender, all lenders – singly or jointly – shall initiate steps to cure the default,” RBI said.

The resolution plan (RP) may involve any actions/plans/ reorganisation including, but not limited to, regularisation of the account by payment of all over dues by the borrower entity, sale of the exposures to other entities/investors, change in ownership, or restructuring.

The notification said that if a resolution plan in respect of large accounts is not implemented as per the timelines specified, lenders will be required to file insolvency application, singly or jointly, under the IBC, 2016, within 15 days from the expiry of the specified timeline.

All lenders are required to submit report to Central Repository of Information on Large Credits (CRILC) on a monthly basis effective April 1, 2018.

In addition, the lenders shall report to CRILC, all borrower entities in default (with aggregate exposure of Rs. 5 crore and above), on a weekly basis, at the close of business every Friday, or the preceding working day if Friday happens to be a holiday.

The first such weekly report shall be submitted for the week ending February 23, 2018, the notification said.

The new guidelines have specified framework for early identification and reporting of stressed assets.

In respect of accounts with aggregate exposure of the lenders at Rs. 2,000 crore and above, on or after March 1, 2018 (reference date), resolution plan RP should be implemented within 180 days.

“If in default after the reference date, then 180 days from the date of first such default,” the notification said.


Aviva under fire for pouring £370m into Polish coal industry

A lignite-fired power station in Bogatynia, Poland. Aviva is now the second-biggest investor among insurers in the Polish coal industry. Photograph: Florian Gaertner/Photothek via Getty Images

UK insurer Aviva is the second-biggest investor in the Polish coal industry, the most polluting in Europe, according to a report that looks at insurance firms’ involvement in the sector.

Aviva is among a number of major European insurers that are backing the expansion of Poland’s coal industry, undermining international efforts to battle climate change, according to research from Unfriend Coal, a global network of organisations including Greenpeace Switzerland, and the UK Tar Sands Network.

Aviva has invested £372.7m in Polish coal, more than any other insurance company apart from the Dutch firm Nationale Nederlanden, the report found.

Poland’s coal industry is the second biggest in Europe, after Germany. Pollution from Polish coal is estimated to cause 5,830 premature deaths across Europeevery year, Unfriend Coal said.

The UN recently called for a stop to new coal power plants and an accelerated phase-out of existing ones. But Polish companies are planning to build power plants able to generate more than 10 gigawatts and open new mines holding more than 3.2bn tonnes of lignite, the dirtiest form of coal.

Aviva’s investments are held through its Polish pension fund, OFE Aviva BZ WBK. The fund increased its holdings in Polish coal companies by more than £45m between 2016 and 2017.

It has a 2.3% stake in the country’s largest power company PGE, which operates two of Europe’s most polluting coal plants at Bełchatów and Turów and plans to build new coal plants generating more than 5.2GW.

Peter Bosshard, Unfriend Coal coordinator, said: “Unlike all other insurers which are taking action on coal, Aviva decided to focus on engagement rather than on divestment, and have only divested from very few companies if engagement was completely unproductive.”

Aviva said it invested more than £525m in low-carbon projects such as renewable windfarms and solar energy last year. It added that it engaged with companies that derive more than 30% of revenue from coal to improve their business practices and will divest “where we do not see sufficient movement to transition away from coal”.

“In Poland, local pension companies, including Aviva, manage customers’ assets under a strict regulatory regime and are not able to influence the investment strategy for these. The investment guidelines focus on domestic equity where the energy industry is the second largest after the banking sector,” it said.

European insurers have invested more than £1.15bn in Polish coal companies and have signed at least 21 contracts insuring coal plants since 2013, according to Unfriend Coal.

Europe’s biggest insurer, Allianz, is leading a consortium underwriting the biggest coal power plant under construction in Europe at Opole near Katowice, a PGE project, which is due to start operating next year. The consortium includes Italy’s Generali, Germany’s Munich Re and the Polish insurer PZU.

Allianz said: “We will continue to insure utilities and mining companies when they show an adequate sustainability performance or suitable risk mitigation strategies.”


The New Sony Xperia XZ2 Has Tools for Small Business Content Marketers

The New Sony Xperia XZ2 Made for Creators

Sony (NYSE: SNE) announced the Xperia XZ2 at Mobile World Congress 2018, where the prevailing theme amongst smartphone manufacturers this year has been cameras and entertainment.

Hideyuki Furumi, Executive Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing for Sony Mobile Communications, explained in a press release, “If entertainment is your priority, then our new Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact are your smartphones. We have pushed Sony’s boundaries even further with our new products for movie recording, viewing, and music listening.”

However, for content creators, particularly small business marketers, the XZ2 also has some noteworthy features which may persuade them to consider it as their daily driver, especially if the price is right.

The Xperia, Sony’s flagship phone, comes in two different versions. The XZ2 and the XZ2 Compact have been designed with quality cameras, display and audio technology content creators involved in small business marketers can take advantage of.

For small businesses operating in a creative field, the XZ2 is a smartphone packed with powerful features for creating and consuming content.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Specs

The specs both phones share include: a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, 4GB RAM, 64GB storage expandable up to 400GB with MicroSD card, 18:9 Full HD+ (1080×2160) HDR display, TRILUMINOS Display for mobile, 19MP rear camera and 5MP front camera, fingerprint scanner on the back, and Android 8.0 Oreo.

The XZ2 has a 5.7-inch display, Dynamic Vibration system, QI Wireless charging, 3180mAh battery, and is covered in a 3D Gorilla Glass surface.

The compact version has a 5-inch display, polycarbonate finish and a 2870mAh battery.

The standout features of both phones are fast connection speeds (up to 1.2Gbps) with second-generation Gigabit LTE, 4K HDR Movie recording, 960 fps Super slow motion video (FHD/HD), Predictive Capture (motion/smile), 3D Creator, Movie Creator and AR effect.

Price and Availability

The Xperia line is not the first brand customers think of when they are in the market for a smartphone. But if Sony prices this phone right — meaning much lower than the $1,000 price tag of other flagship phones — it has a great chance of getting more recognition.

Sony hasn’t announced how much these phones will cost when they become available globally in March, so a decision on whether small businesses can fit this device in their budget must wait. However, when the XZ1 launched it was $699 and the XZ1 Compact came in at $599. So if the latest Sony phones come in anywhere near this, they will definitely get the attention of many businesses and consumers alike.


Global smartphone sales fall for the first time in more than a decade

A customer purchases the new iPhone X at an Apple store on November 3, 2017 in Palo Alto, California.

A customer purchases the new iPhone X at an Apple store on November 3, 2017 in Palo Alto, California.

Global smartphone sales fell by 5.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2017 — the industry’s first decline since 2004, according to a study from research firm Gartner.

Chinese smartphone makers Huawei and Xiaomi were the only vendors in the top five to experience year-over-year growth in the quarter, respectively by 7.6 percent and 79 percent.

“Upgrades from feature phones to smartphones have slowed down due to a lack of quality ‘ultra-low-cost’ smartphones and users preferring to buy quality feature phones,” said Anshul Gupta, research director at Gartner. “Replacement smartphone users are choosing quality models and keeping them longer.”

“While demand for high quality, 4G connectivity and better camera features remained strong, high expectations and few incremental benefits during replacement weakened smartphone sales,” Gupta said.

Samsung maintained the number one spot for global sales, growing market share from the fourth quarter of 2016, despite a 3.6 percent dip. Apple sales fell 5 percent year over year and Oppo sales fell 3.9 percent.

All five top vendors grew in global market share in the fourth quarter of the 2017, widening the gap between the leaders and the rest of the industry.

Smartphones sales for all of 2017 increased by 2.7 percent from the previous year to 1.5 billion.


‘Multiple and intertwined risks’ cloud outlook for the Middle East and its neighbors, IMF says

Dubai, U.A.E.

Major oil producing countries in the Middle East and its neighbors might benefit from higher crude prices in 2019, according to the latest outlook from International Monetary Fund (IMF), but there are numerous uncertainties in the region.

The Fund’s latest regional economic outlook for the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan, and Pakistan (MENAP) region, published Tuesday, warns that “multiple and intertwined risks cloud the outlook of the MENAP region.”

“These include a faster-than-anticipated tightening of global financial conditions, escalating trade tensions that could affect global growth and hurt key MENAP trading partners, geopolitical strains, and spillovers from regional conflicts,” the report stated.

These risks could trigger a deterioration in financial market sentiment and greater financial market volatility, the Fund said, “aggravating the financing challenges for countries with high levels of debt or large refinancing needs.”

Oil producing countries in the Middle East have traditionally relied on oil exports as their source of government revenue. Volatility in oil markets amid imbalances in supply and demand have prompted a number of countries, particularly in the Gulf, to look to diversify their economies away from oil and to create more jobs in other sectors of the economy. In its latest summary on the MENAP region’s outlook, it encouraged countries to commit to further reforms.

“The outlook and the rising risks underscore the need to intensify efforts to raise growth to levels that generate enough jobs for the benefit of all,” the IMF said. “In this context, countries should expand access to finance, strengthen governance, improve education outcomes, and enhance labor market flexibility, particularly in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).”

To ensure that future fiscal adjustment is as growth-friendly and equitable as possible, the Fund said countries need to both prioritize expenditure on “growth-enhancing and high-quality investment in human capital and physical infrastructure, while sustaining well-targeted social spending.” It also advocated a move to a more progressive tax structure to diversify the governments’ revenue bases.

Jihad Azour, director of the Middle East and Central Asia at the IMF, told CNBC on Tuesday that the MENAP report comes amid an uncertain global growth outlook.

“Global conditions are changing in terms of the risk metrics,” Azour told CNBC’s Dan Murphy. “Although we’re still enjoying a high level of growth, that growth is plateauing,” he added.

Oil prices

Despite the warnings from the IMF, growth prospects for both oil exporters and oil importers in the MENAP region appear resilient, albeit dented slightly by the recent re-imposition of U.S. sanctions on major oil producer Iran.

“Overall, despite a significantly weaker outlook for Iran given the re-imposition of sanctions, oil-exporting countries are projected to grow at 1.4 percent in 2018 and 2 percent in 2019,” the Fund said.

Meanwhile, among GCC countries — namely, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman — growth is expected to recover to 2.4 percent in 2018 and 3 percent in 2019. “This is underpinned by a recovery in non-oil activity, supported by a slower pace of fiscal consolidation, and stronger oil production,” the Fund said.

Problematically, if oil prices continued to increase, as predicted by the Fund, that could weaken the resolve of oil exporters to continue reforms, while exacerbating pressures on oil importers.

That said, oil-importing countries in the MENAP region (which include Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Syria and Tunisia, among others) are expected to continue at a modest pace of 4.5 percent in 2018, before dropping back to 4 percent in 2019.

“However, growth is uneven, with about three-quarters of oil-importing countries expected to grow at less than 5 percent over the medium term, too low to address the region’s employment challenges and developmental needs,” the IMF said. “Higher oil prices are also offsetting some of the underlying improvements in external and fiscal balances.”


Aavishkaar plans to raise $300 million for South Asia fund

Vineet Rai, chief executive of Aavishkaar Venture Management Services, sees Indonesia as the next hub of impact investing.

India’s biggest homegrown impact investor by size of investments, Aavishkaar Group, plans to raise $300 million for its South Asia-focused fund early next year to invest across financial services, agriculture, energy and health, said a senior executive.

The fund will be used for investments in Vietnam, Indonesia, Myanmar and Laos among others. “We are avoiding India and China, and looking more at smaller markets which have unutilized potential,” said Vineet Rai, managing partner and chief executive of Aavishkaar Venture Management Services. Aavishkaar is part of the Aavishkaar-Intellecap conglomerate, which also owns companies such as IntelleGrow, a non-banking financial company (NBFC) which lends to small and medium enterprises; Tribe, a fintech platform connecting lenders to small entrepreneurs; and Arohan, an east-India focused microfinance lender.

“I see Indonesia as the next hub of impact investing. Like India, it has a high density of population and business models are very scalable. It also has a cultural connect and similarities with an evolving private equity/venture capital system,” he added.

Rai plans to raise the funds from sovereign investors in Singapore, Japan, Australia and the UK, in addition to Asian development finance institutions. The fund is a follow up to its $75 million Frontier Fund focused on South and South-East Asia. It will be Aavishkaar’s eighth fund, which it is aiming for a first close by end 2019.

Aavishkaar is currently raising capital for two of its funds- the $200 million Aavishkaar Bharat fund, an India-specific fund, and a $150 million Africa fund, its first foray into the African market.

The Aavishkaar Bharat Fund is the largest India-focused impact fund being raised by a domestic fund manager. Rai expects the Africa fund to hit a first close of $60-80 million by April next year. He expects the Bharat fund to hit its final close around the same time. It achieved a first close of $95 million in November last year.

The Bharat Fund is backed by institutional investors such as the UK’s development finance institution CDC, Small Industries Development Bank of India (Sidbi), National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) and family offices such as Sunil Munjal of Hero Enterprise, said Rai.

Mint reported in January 2017 that the Africa fund will focus on east and west Africa with specific focus on Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Ghana. “Our core strategy is to go deeper in the companies we invest in. We do seed stage rounds and then follow it up with further investments. Our investing philosophy also goes far beyond funding, because we incubate, provide guidance to entrepreneurs and look to scale the business,” said Rai.

Aavishkaar follows a consistent investment strategy in all the markets it invests in, where about 35% of the fund will be invested in financial services, 30% in agriculture and 30% in energy and health.


California’s new ban on small cages for chickens, pigs, and calves could force the entire egg industry to go cage-free

California chickens will soon all be getting more space. One square foot of it, to be exact.

On Tuesday, voters in California overwhelmingly approved Proposition 12, which will enact stricter rules on how much space farmers must give to egg-laying hens, veal calves, and breeding pigs. The idea is that all of those animals should have enough room to stretch out their wings, claws, and paws.

The measure has major ramifications for the rest of the country, because it also means that grocers in California won’t be able to sell any meat or eggs that come from out of state and don’t adhere to the new regulations. That means farms across the US that want to sell their wares in the nation’s most populous state will be forced to comply with California’s new rule.


California already had a law on the books about cruelty-free eggs: it says egg-laying hens, breeding pigs, and calves raised for veal must be given enough space “to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs.” But that still allowed for some variations based on interpretation.

Now, under the new regulation, farmers have until the start of 2020 to provide each egg-laying hen at least one square foot of floor space. By 2022, all the state’s hens need to have completely cage-free housing.

Animal rights activists like the Humane Society of the US, which sponsored Proposition 12, cheered the change.

“California voters have sent a loud and clear message that they reject cruel cage confinement in the meat and egg industries,” Kitty Block, acting president and CEO of the Humane Society said in a statement. “Millions of veal calves, mother pigs and egg-laying hens will never know the misery of being locked in a tiny cage for the duration of their lives.”

Egg producers around the country had already rallied in opposition to California’s current hen-housing requirements. In April, 13 states took the battle to the Supreme Court. Iowa, the country’s largest egg producer, even enacted a new law to protect farmers there who keep hens caged.

But big egg retailers like McDonalds, Costco, and Burger King had already started to respond to consumers’ cage-free demands – McDonald’s and Burger King have both pledged to source only cage-free eggs by 2025.

The battle over how we house farm animals comes as the US’ egg appetite soars – American egg production rose 3% in 2017, with a total of 106 billion eggs produced last year. (The vitamin-rich yolks are no longer thought to raise cholesterol levels the way many people previously thought.)

Read More: ‘Cage-free’ and ‘free range’ eggs aren’t necessarily cruelty-free

Converting to cage-free doesn’t come free, though: it costs farmers about $40 per bird, according to Pew Stateline. Farmers say raising cage-free chickens can also be messier and require more work.

Cage-free eggs also cost more in stores. A study published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics in 2017 estimated that California’s current law cut egg production in that state by more than a third. For consumers, egg prices were found to be between 9% and 33% more expensive than they would have been without the rule.

“I think it should be an issue of the person votes when they buy the eggs,” Dennis Bowden, who converted his own chicken farm in Maine to a cage-free facility, told Pew Stateline. “Poor people can’t afford to buy eggs if they’re all cage-free.”

Plus, cage-free doesn’t always mean that the birds get to roam freely; some cage-free egg-layers still don’t spend a single moment of their lives outside.

In addition to passing Proposition 12, Californians also voted in favor of nixing Daylight Saving Time and decided that the state should be able to spend mental-health funding to house homeless people with mental illnesses.