The Sri Lankan market has opened to Indian oranges. For the first time in many years, around 52 tonne of oranges from Maharashtra have been exported to Sri Lanka, top officials of the Maharashtra government said.
Bangladesh has been a regular importer of oranges from India, though no authentic data is available since road transport is used, authorities of the Maharashtra State Agriculture Marketing Board (MSAMB) said. The consignment has been exported through the Export Facilitation Centre established by the MSAMB with MahaOrange, Chandrakant Patil, Maharashtra cooperation minister, said.
The first consignment of 26 tonne has already left for Sri Lanka and the second consignment of similar tonnage is expected to leave Indian shores soon, he said. According to senior officials, though Indian exporters wish to export oranges to newer markets, the fruit size of 180-200 grams, which is a mandatory condition, is a little difficult for Indian farmers to meet. However, the domestic market has been pretty receptive and farmers have been able to make profits to the tune of R1 crore this season, the minister said. Direct sales outlets opened at the behest of MSAMB in different cities has seen a sale of some 500 tonne, he said.
Around 50 farmer groups reached out to cities including Hyderabad, Nashik, Kolhapur, Mumbai, Sangli and Pune, opening direct sales outlets, officials said. There has been a bumper orange crop this Mrig Bahar season.
MahaOrange, whose orange export business was shut over several years, could export the fruit this year and is now attempting to reach out to markets in the Middle East, the minister said. MahaOrange has signed an MoU with MSAMB and Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) to set up a facilitation centre in Vidarbha that will look into packaging, grading and branding of oranges procured from the farmers. Oranges will be purchased, packed and graded according to quality in three categories — Grade A, for top quality oranges; Grade B, for oranges little lower than the top quality; and Grade C, for oranges which are usually meant for the food processing industry, This way, farmers can be guaranteed of better prices, since the rates will be fixed according to the category and therefore, there will be less heartburn.
MahaOrange has created a group of farmers who are ready to sell their produce to the apex body and the expectation is that more farmers will join as the effort takes off.
The start of the coming Mrig season for orange growers in Maharashtra promises to be more remunerative than the previous season. Farmers were able to sell the fruit at Rs 30 per kg in direct outlets. This time, prices of oranges could touch Rs 25,000 per tonne, offering better returns than the Rs 10,000 per tonne that farmers received in the previous season, more than double, senior officials of MahaOrange said.
The Ambiya Bahar season is a shorter one and lasts till April; the crop was affected by a spell of unseasonal rains in the middle and, therefore, the crop could be affected to some extent.
Bangladesh continues to remain the largest importer while exports to markets such as Russia and Europe are negligible. Of the 7.5 lakh tonne oranges that are produced annually, the exports were till now restricted to Bangladesh and Nepal. In a meeting with the members of MahaOrange and MSAMB, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had earlier stressed on the need to boost the export of oranges.
MahaOrange is expected to lead and co-ordinate efforts to promote and market oranges on the lines of MahaGrape, MahaMango and MahaBanana. MahaOrange has signed an MoU with MSAMB to run the Export Facilitation Centre at Karanja Ghadage, Nagpur and expects grading, packaging and branding of oranges to make a difference to orange prices in the country. To retain the flavour of Nagpur oranges, MahaOrange plans to create nurseries and getting them registered so that standards are maintained at the ground level. The effort is to ensure that a farmer gets good rootstock and reduce Grade C variety of oranges that constitute 30-40% of the total production.
These are usually given away at throwaway prices to processing units. According to industry observers, in 2010, around 20 lakh tonne of cultivation had dried up and, therefore, the effort is to bring in more irrigation. A major push is needed for export to Bangladesh and the Gulf, he said.
Usually, organised retail in the country opts for imported oranges that come in bulk. Maharashtra is the country’s largest producer and exporter of oranges. The area under orange cultivation in the state is about 1.21 lakh hectare and the total production exceeds 7 lakh tonne annually, through two seasons — Ambia and Mruga.
* For the first time in many years, around 52 tonne of oranges from Maharashtra have been exported to Sri Lanka, top officials of the Maharashtra government said
* The consignment has been exported through the Export Facilitation Centre established by the MSAMB with MahaOrange, Chandrakant Patil, Maharashtra cooperation minister, said
* The first consignment of 26 tonne has already left for Sri Lanka and the second consignment of similar tonnage is expected to leave Indian shores soon, he said