Bearing fruit: Maharashtra to set up six clusters to boost farm exports

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Published: March 9, 2019 2:42:02 AM

The government is encouraging swadeshi, organic, traditional and modern methods of farming. This would help farmers improve the export quantity, tap new markets, develop a strong framework to tackle challenges related to sanitary and phytosanitary issues

These clusters, to come up in six zones, will mainly export bananas, oranges, onions, pomegranates, grapes, mangoes.

In a planned attempt to promote exports of the state’s agricultural produce, the Maharashtra government is set to develop six clusters in accordance with the Centre’s agri-export policy. The focus will be on these clusters, to come up in six zones, to export bananas, oranges, pomegranates, onions, grapes, and mangoes.

Solapur, Ahmednagar and Pune districts have been identified for the export of pomegranates; similarly, Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri for mangoes; Nashik, Pune and Sangli for grapes; Nashik also for onions; Nagpur, Wardha and Amravati for oranges; and Jalgaon, Kolhapur and Solapur for bananas. Farmer groups, producer companies and cooperatives will receive infrastructural and logistical support from the state to promote these clusters, said Sunil Pawar, managing director at Maharashtra state agriculture marketing board (MSAMB) at a workshop on the state’s agriculture export policy, on Friday.

Pawar said these clusters would replace the previously created agri-export zones. “Various schemes aimed at increasing exports will be implemented on these clusters. Farmers in these clusters will be trained to use inputs in order to meet the minimum residue limits (MRLs), as specified by export markets.” Pawar said.

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The Centre’s agriculture export policy is aimed at doubling the country’s agriculture revenue from the current level of $30 billion to $60 billion in a year or two, and to $100 billion a few years later.

In addition to increasing the exports, the government is also focussing on encouraging swadeshi, organic, traditional and modern methods of farming. This would not only help farmers improve the export quantity, but also tap new markets, develop a strong framework to tackle challenges related to sanitary and phytosanitary issues, Pawar said. Maharashtra accounts for more than 50 % of the country’s agriculture exports, which include grapes, oranges, mangoes, pomegranates and bananas, among others. The state’s potential is yet to be fully tapped, the MSAMB MD said. Maharashtra exports 60-70% of the fruits, vegetables and cereals it produces every year. The state marketing board has developed around 44 export facilitation centres with assistance from the agricultural and processed food products export development authority (APEDA), and the national agriculture development commission.

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Maharashtra agriculture commissioner Suhas Divase said market linkages were important to develop exports, and public private partnerships (PPP) could play an important role to strengthen infrastructure as farmers lack the necessary skills and wherewithal. When big names in retail such as Tesco and Walmart are involved in agriculture, investments starts flowing in to strengthen the supply chain and educate farmers about the requirements of overseas markets, he said.

Divase cited the example of Indian grapes that were meant to be exported to Russia recently, but were lying at ports because of new norms announced by the country.

“The country’s image in the international agriculture exports market is not as good as we would like it to be, and we have to accept our shortcomings and improve upon, them,” he said. “Merely sending our agri-produce to Dubai should not be the goal and, instead, we should focus on quality export,” he said. The agriculture commissioner spoke of the new SMART project coming up in the state for agriculture, where 10-12 supply chains have been identified to ascertain what kind of value addition could be done.

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