Record CaFE – Madhaiyaan Angamuthu: ‘Despite Covid-19, agricultural exports did well’

March 15, 2021 6:50 AM

‘Operational challenges posed by Covid-19 could not deter growth in India’s agricultural and process food products exports’

Dr M Angamuthu, Chairman of the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA)Dr M Angamuthu, Chairman of the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA)

Notwithstanding challenges faced by the Covid-19 pandemic across the globe, India’s agricultural and processed food exports have seen a significant increase as per the data available for the first 10 months of FY21. Dr M Angamuthu, the chairman of the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), which functions under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, spoke to Sandip Das, agriculture and food security analyst, on the measures initiated to boost India’s agri-exports. Excerpts:

There has been a significant jump in India’s agricultural and processed food exports, especially in the last decade. What factors do you attribute to this?

Efforts made by the concerned stakeholders in the agri-supply chain in the last decade have resulted in increase of exports from $7,343.98 million in April 2009-10 to $16,133.28 million in 2019-20. In the first 10 months of the current fiscal, we achieved exports worth $15,566 million—an increase of over 20% compared to same period in 2019-20. In rupee terms, the agri-export realisation was Rs 1,157,82 crore during April-January 2020-21—more than 25% compared to the previous fiscal. The key factors for this are efforts made towards strengthening backward linkage, setting up of post-harvest infrastructure, strengthening of logistics infrastructure, and market promotion efforts for taking the agri-produce to global markets.

During Covid-19 there were challenges in shipping commodities, and yet exports increased…

We took several measures in terms of ensuring safety and hygiene due to operational and health challenges posed by Covid-19. Especially the non-basmati rice and wheat exports during the first 10 months of current fiscal grew by 125% & 533%, respectively, compared to same period in the previous fiscal.

India’s global share in agricultural and processed food exports is still marginal…

The government had announced the Agriculture Export Policy in 2018 with the objectives of increasing exports, diversification of the export basket and destinations, and encouraging high-value and value-added agricultural produce with a focus on perishables. The thrust is on providing stable trade policy regime, development of infrastructure including logistics infrastructure, involvement of state governments, and setting up of institutional mechanisms at the state level to support exports. The operational recommendations focus on developing product clusters, promoting value-added products and substantial value-added organic products, skill development, marketing and promotion of brand India, and so on. The APEDA has taken many initiatives that have yielded results in deputation of state nodal agencies and nodal officers for 28 states. State-level monitoring committees have been set up in 22 states. State governments have been facilitated for preparation of state agri-export plans, and these have been finalised by 16 states. A country-specific agri-export strategy has been prepared for 60 countries.

Which all agencies you collaborated with to boost export prospects?

The APEDA has signed MoUs with the NABARD, Small Farmers’ Agribusiness Consortium, National Cooperative Development Corporation, National Cooperative Union of India and Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India, for the creation of farmer producer organisations, farmer producer companies, farmer cooperatives and self-help groups for facilitating export-oriented production. Efforts have also been made for having a synergy with the concerned line ministries and organisations that provide the fund support for developmental activities for strengthening supply chain of agri exports.

In addition, during Covid-19, for proving a platform to importers and exporters, virtual trade fair software has been developed and is being implemented. Export promotion forums have been set up for nine commodities (grapes, mango, pomegranate, banana, onion, rice and nutri cereals, dairy products and floriculture). Indian agri export faces barriers due to tariff disadvantages. In-house studies have been carried out and a report was prepared on tariff disadvantages with importing countries, which will help in addressing this concern.

Which all commodities saw exports surge in the last decade?

Basmati and non-basmati rice, buffalo meat, groundnuts, miscellaneous preparations, cereal preparations, guar gum, processed fruits, juices and nuts, processed vegetables, fresh grapes, fresh vegetables and others are the commodities that saw major growth in exports.

Are steps being taken to ensure that Indian export shipments are not rejected because of presence of higher levels of pesticide traces?

Considering food safety and traceability are the requirements of importing countries, we had initiated implementation of a traceability system for identified potential products long time ago. The first traceability system for grapes (grape.net) was made in 2006-07 for export of grapes to the EU market. After its success, it was replicated to other products. Till now, the traceability system has been implemented for export of basmati rice (basmatirice.net), meat products (meat.net), peanuts (peanut.net) and organic products (trace.net). The traceability system for potential fruits and vegetables (horti.net) is under implementation. In this system, a farmer registration module for different fruits and vegetables has to be activated. Traceability systems for poultry, honey, banana and GI products have also been initiated.

In addition, the work of APEDA-recognised laboratories has been updated to 200 labs, which facilitates testing of sample products as per the requirement of importing countries. For further expansion of the labs, the APEDA has approached all state agricultural laboratories to go ahead with NABL recognition and get recognised by the APEDA for export testing.

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