“Loss of oil exports due to secession of South will be offset by gold exports”

Sudan has recently emerged out of the burden of US imposed sanctions. The country is trying to recover the past shock. THE BLUE MOON Editor Amit Mittal spoke to Ambassador Sirajuddin Hamid Yousif on the prospects of growth of trade between India and his country. Some excerpts:

Trade with India has depleted from USD 1.4 billion in 2014-15 to USD 996.5 million in 2016-17. Why the trade has gone down? (Indian Commerce Ministry figures). 

After 27 years of US sanctions, trade with India has not come at full pace. There has been a problem of hard currency due to the US sanctions so the payments were done through brokers who charged commissions on every transaction. Trade could not increase dramatically after the lifting of the sanctions on 12 October last.

Even after the Third India Africa Forum Summit held in New Delhi in October 2015, trade has slid downwards, what could be the reason for this slide? 

After the third Joint Ministerial Commission held in February this year, a good understanding has been reached to increase commercial ties hitting USD 1.5 billion. 

India was the second largest import partner with 11.2% of the total imports after UAE with 15.4 %, there is no mention of exports to India figures in 2016. Does India not import anything from Sudan? 

There are problems like fumigation of pulses exported by Sudan to India. The fumigation is supposed to be done by a chemical Ethynol Bromide. Our Minister of Trade approached the Indian side but there is no response on the issue. Similarly the MEA has been approached to sort out the issue, but there has been no answer on the subject. Pulses and grains have been the main commodities of export from Sudan to India. The hurdle is the right chemical to be used which is yet to be decided.

Indian companies in gold mining will soon be exporting gold to India which will increase trade statistics.

Sudan exports 2060 bbl/day (estimated 2013), does it not export the crude to India?

Oil exports to India from Sudan dropped after secession of South Sudan. This will resume from South Sudan shortly.

Is the Indian Line of Credit from India to Sudan satisfy the Sudanese side? Is the LOC disbursed in time?

On 27 February the second rescheduling Agreement was done. We are still holding this Agreement as after lifting of sanctions soon the debt will be paid.

What is the quantum of Indian investments in Sudan? Which are the main investors?

There are investments in gold sector. In eastern Sudan Indian companies have got mining operations. We expect increase in trade balance with gold mining.

Are you satisfied with the Indian investments or is there potential for more investments?

Potential for investment is huge. India should invest in agriculture. Sudan awaits clearances of investments.

Are there oil explorations being done with India’s ONGC/OVL? 

India’s ONGC was offered Block 17, but they have not come up with a proposal. ONGC was part of a consortium which finished its term, but did not renew it.

In July 2011with the formation of South Sudan, three quarters of oil production was lost. How has it affected the economy? What measures have been taken to compensate the loss of oil production by Sudan?

There was loss of oil exports after secession of South Sudan, but this has been offset by gold production. Sudan happens to be the second largest exporter of gold after South Africa. Total gold production in 2016 was 126 tons. 

Rising inflation in Sudan affected the economy; what new measures have been initiated to bring down the inflation and check rise in poverty? 

Economy of Sudan was seriously affected by external agencies like US sanctions, railways and airways infrastructure was totally ruined. Gold has now offset the loss from oil.UAE is the largest investor. Saudi Arabia alone invested USD30 billion. Also Qatar has huge investments.  Investments from Jordan are not very big. They are somewhere between USD3 to 4 billion. Turkey has also made some investments.

Sudan is very open to India. India will be an ideal partner for Sudan. There were many medical visitors from Sudan last year numbering 12500. There are 10900 Sudanese students studying in India.

Sudanese people are fond of Indian movies.

From India there are many engineers and marble industry labour going to Sudan. Soon the Sudanese Embassy in Delhi will be opening a service office to facilitate trade and investments.