After registering a phenomenal 40 per cent growth in the financial year 2016-17, India’s fruit exports are finding it difficult to sustain the momentum in the coming years.
A study on difficulties faced by exporters in the supply chain of agriculture products by Yes Bank stated India’s fresh fruit exports were suffering due to stringent quality norms in importing countries that mandate procurement of goods from registered suppliers only. The study was conducted with the approval of the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (Apeda).
While the entry of large corporates in contract farming has helped mitigate some of the quality issues exporters were facing earlier, experts believe that India would have a long way to go to get a significant pie in the global fruit trade. Apart from quality, transportation along with pre-harvest and post-harvest measures to enhance the shelf life of crops continued to pose a challenge to the Indian fruit exporters.
“Importing norms are becoming stringent for fresh fruits and vegetables. To comply with the norms of importing nations, it is requisite to procure the produce from registered farmers only. If farmers’ registration is not put in place, exporters may be adversely affected. At present, except few states not much effort has been put in by the state governments to get farmers registered,” said the study.
Reflecting on the current trend, India’s exports of fresh fruits posted a decline of nearly 4 per cent to 2,45,641 tonnes for the April-July period in 2017, as compared to 236,313 tonnes in the corresponding period last year, according to data compiled by Apeda. In terms of value, total exports of fresh fruits declined to Rs 1,527 crore ($237 million) during the April-July period this year, from Rs 1,551 crore ($235 million) in the same period last year. In FY17, exports jumped by 40 per cent to 6,96,057 tonnes worth $659.2 million.
Meanwhile, an advisory from Apeda issues warning to Indian exporters, saying: “The Chinese National Health and Family Planning Commission, Ministry of Agriculture, China Food and Drug Administration has released the National Food Safety Standard for maximum residue limits (MRL) for pesticides in foods, including fresh vegetables and fruits. This standard will be replaced with the current MRL standard that has come into effect on June 18. In accordance with this directive, exporters and growers are advised to strongly adhere to the import requirements of China and not make any shipments without getting the product tested prior to export and unless it is found to be compliant,” said Dr Sudhanshu, Deputy General Manager, Apeda.
Interestingly, the entry of large corporates like the Mahindra and Mahindra (M&M) and Deepak Fertilisers, among others is set to change the entire dynamics of fruit exports from India, as these players adopt ethical practices and monitor the entire channel in the value chain, that is, from farm to plate.
“Besides other common challenges, one specific challenge is with respect to the right harvesting time. There is a scarcity of skilled labour for harvesting and handling of commodities especially mango and pomegranate. Since commodities are perishable in nature, availability of containers at the optimum time at ports is critical. Apart from that, volatile freight rate during the peak season and lack of dedicated spaces for offloading in containers are some of the major challenges Indian fruit exporters currently face,” said an industry official engaged exports.
India contributes just around 0.14 per cent to the global fruit exports and it constitutes around 8 per cent of the overall global export of the $1.76-trillion agri products.