Indian Drug Makers Look For Barter Deals In African Liquidity Crisis

Indian Drug Makers Look For Barter Deals In African Liquidity Crisis

India, which exports up to 20 percent of its pharmaceutical production to Africa, hopes to work out barter deals with African countries so it can trade in rupees — similar to the deal it forged with Iran after sanctions were imposed by the U.S. and U.K., BusinessStandard reported.

Payments to Indian pharmaceutical exporters — mostly small and medium-sized players– have been delayed due to liquidity issues in some African oil-exporting countries, according to the report.

The usual payment cycle of around three months has now been dragged out to six to eight months, said Chirag Doshi, owner of a Gujarat pharmaceutical firm.

The problem is mainly in Nigeria, Angola and Sudan, said P. V. Appaji, director general of India’s Pharmaceutical Export Promotions Council, the government agency responsible for promoting Indian pharmaceutical exports. “Business has been dull in the past three-to-four months and is currently very slow,” he said.

The situation is snowballing, said Viranchi Shah, vice chairman of the Gujarat State Board of the Indian Drug Manufacturers’ Association.

“With the fall in crude prices, the currencies of the African nations like Nigeria which is an oil exporter, has been badly affected,” he said. “As a result, they do not have enough liquidity in their system to make payments. Therefore, the payments of Indian exporters are stuck.”

In the wake of U.S. and U.K. sanctions, India worked out a barter deal with Iran in 2012-2013 using the rupee as trading currency.

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China worked out an agreement with Nigeria in April to use the yuan as the trading currency, ChannelsTV reported.

Nigeria’s objective is to borrow the cheapest possible money, said Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun.

The agreement “means that the renminbi (yuan) is free to flow among different banks in Nigeria and the renminbi has been included in the foreign exchange reserves of Nigeria,” said Lin Songtian, director general of China’s Foreign Ministry for African Affairs.

“Iran had opened a rupee account in India and India-Iran trade was done using the Indian rupee,” Shah told BusinessStandard. “We can work out something similar with countries like Nigeria … Importers now no longer need to buy the U.S. dollar to pay China, and yuan rates would remain relatively stable as it is not a very openly traded currency. Trade with China will thus stabilize.”

About 18-to-20 percent of India’s pharmaceutical exports of around $16.8 billion go to African countries, according to BusinessStandard.

While large pharmaceutical companies usually focus on regulated markets, it’s the small-to-medium sized Indian exporters that have been hardest hit.

For example, nearly 50 percent of Gujarat’s pharmaceutical exports go to emerging markets. Doshi said there there has been a 25-to-30 percent drop in exports to African countries.

About 80 percent of his exports was going to Africa, Doshi said. With the business slowdown, he has been operating at 50 percent capacity the last two months.

India is also thinking of working out a barter deal with Venezuela.

More than 200 companies manufacture medicine in India. The domestic Indian pharmaceutical industry was worth $26 billion in 2014 and growing at nearly 20 percent with projections of $50 billion by 2020, according to the government-owned India Brand Equity Foundation, which promotes the Made in India label in overseas markets.

North America is India’s largest export market with 27 percent of the total generic drug consumption, followed by Africa and the European Union — each consuming 18 percent of medicines exported from India.