With the pomegranate season in full swing, around 20,000 tonne of the fruit has been exported from the country so far. However, a hurdle has emerged. Europe, where the season has just begun, has changed the Residue Monitoring Plan (RMP) for pomegranate imports. The Residue Monitoring Plan (RMP) for grapes in Europe is normally 75 mg per kg but for pomegranates it has been brought down to just 2 mg per kg thus making it difficult for pomegranate growers in the country to export the fruit, said Prabhakar Chandane, chairman, Maharashtra Pomegranate Growers Research Association (MPGRA). Recently like Europe, other countries that export grapes from India including China, Indonesia and Russia, have decided to issue stricter Residue Monitoring Plan (RMP) norms to the country. India has been attempting to make inroads into new export markets such as China, Russia, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.
However, these countries have now decided to come up with norms for Indian grapes which may affect the export prospects of India this season. This may well occur in the case of pomegranates as well, Chandane said. “We have written to Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) to intervene and seek concessions from the European Union (EU) for bringing down the limits in line with grapes at 75 mg per kg. However, APEDA officials have maintained that this could take time and positive results could be seen next season onwards,” he said. Another 10,000-15,000 tonne is expected to be exported to Europe, he added.
A German team is visiting India to inspect pomegranates, he said, adding that they were attempting to convince them to ease the norms. A bumper crop is in the offing this year but around 80% of the crop is of poor quality due to excess rains, he said. Most of the crop is damaged from inside because of rains, he pointed out.
Moreover, there is little demand from Europe because of the new norms. Around 80% of the pomegranates from India are exported to the Middle East. This season, around 2 lakh hectare has come under pomegranate cultivation and total production is likely to cross around 20 lakh tonnes. However, a record 51,000 tonne of the fruit was exported to overseas markets, including Europe, in the 2016-17 season.
Normally, the country exports some 20,000 tonne pomegranates. The European markets have been saturated with heavy arrival of pomegranate and grapes from Peru, Chile and South Africa, effectively stopping Indian exports. Last year around this time, the country’s first export consignment of about 1.3 tonne of pomegranates reached Miami, Florida. For exports, West Asia continues to remain one of the biggest markets for India.
Last year, India also exported pomegranates to countries such as Bangladesh, Bahrain, Sri Lanka, Russia and the Netherlands. Maharashtra contributes 90% to the country’s total pomegranate production. The state leads the pomegranate cultivation with approximately 1,75,000-2,00,000 hectare and other states totalling 30,000-40,000 hectare.
Solapur is the largest producing region followed by Nashik and Sangli. New areas under pomegranate include Nagpur, Latur, Osmanabad and Washim. In addition to Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have also begun growing pomegranates with the area under cultivation going up to 1,25,000 hectare in the last three years. The area under cultivation has risen nearly three-fold resulting in over production. The second season of harvesting is to come up in the January-February period. The first season for the crop comes up in the July to September period.
Normally, the export season begins in November every year and is completed