DESPITE the constraints that make agricultural productivity and yields complex phenomena, there has been a steady increase in food grain production, reaching 308 million tonnes (MT), an increase of 3.74 percent, in 2020 -21 compared to last year’s figures, with better production of rice, wheat and pulses in India. Likewise, up about 3 percent from the previous year, the highest horticultural production on record is around 331 tonnes over the same period. However, much remains to be done to expand the storage infrastructure to keep pace with this increase.
At present, there is an agro-warehouse capacity of around 91 MT to store food grains. In 2012, the Planning Commission indicated a storage need of 61 MT, while the current capacity is estimated at around 32 MT, showing a huge gap between the required and existing facilities. NABARD estimated the storage gap at around 35 MT. No less than 62,000 tonnes of food grains were lost between 2011 and 2017, according to records from the Ministry of Consumption. Lack of scientific storage is yet another factor dropping valuable agricultural products. The limitations of modern cold storage and cold chain facilities at various levels of marketing result in enormous post-harvest losses of fruits and vegetables. The ICAR-CIPHET estimate of around 16% fruit and vegetable wastage at different stages of the supply chain is colossal for a country with an agro-centric economy. In such a situation, it is obvious to explore export avenues rather than letting the products go to waste.
Our export of agricultural and related products is not constant in its growth. It remained stagnant in 2017-18 and 2018-19, declined by $ 3.58 billion in 2019-2020, and posted growth of 17.34% in 2020-21, reaching $ 41.25 billion. An increase of more than 45% is necessary to reach the target of 60 billion dollars in 2021-2022, as envisaged in the National Agricultural Export Policy-2018. To promote exports, it is imperative to improve quality to meet international product standards as well as speed up the process of minimizing regulatory compliance under the World Trade Organization’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures.
The major export markets for Indian agricultural products are the United States, China, EU, Bangladesh, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Nepal, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Indonesia, while the main agricultural products exported are cereals, including wheat and rice, millets, fresh vegetables, bananas, mangoes, grapes, oranges and spices. The export of organic products has increased, showing a growth of 51% in 2020-21. However, the rejection of export shipments due to certain SPS issues remains the main obstacle to promoting exports from India. The problem worsens when some countries, especially the EU, set higher food safety standards than those set by the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), an international organization, mandated to set such standards and maximum limits for food. residues (MRLs) for chemicals in various commodities. India faced as many as 42 rejection notifications regarding the export of basmati rice solely for failing to meet EU food safety standards between 2000 and 2016, with the trend continuing.
Basmati rice is an important export commodity from India. However, its export suffered due to pesticide residues exceeding the MRLs set by importing countries, especially those belonging to the EU. The presence of tricyclazole residues in Indian rice was also raised by the United States, but this was of more serious concern for the drastic reduction in exports to the EU, which lowered its MRL by compared to the standards set by the CAC. The EU frequently lowers the MRLs for different chemicals and many countries in the Middle East are now also adopting standards similar to those in the EU. Restrictions on the acceptance of shipments of organic basmati rice by the EU due to the presence of carbendazim require special attention from the Export Inspection Agency (EIA) to maintain the reliability of organic exports from the EU. country.
In recent years, the export of fresh mangoes from India has been rejected by the EU due to fruit fly infestation and pulp fly due to excessive sugar content. India is one of the largest producers of mangoes and mango pulp. Varieties like Alphonso and Kesar have a large export market. But in 2014, the EU banned the import of fresh mangoes from India due to the presence of fruit flies in inbound shipments. Now, with gamma irradiation and hot water treatment, exports are allowed by the US and EU respectively. However, exporters face difficulties as thinner skinned varieties are prone to skin damage when treated with hot water. This highlights the need for more research to design alternative methods to address concerns related to fruit flies for the uninterrupted export of mangoes. There are similar SPS issues due to the presence of pests such as thrips, silver leaf white fly, fruit and shoot borer, and moth in the export of eggplant and eggplant. aflatoxins in peanuts which require special attention to maintain the high quality of products for export.
To resolve SPS issues, it is essential to ensure compliance with the standards of importing countries. By following good agricultural practices such as reducing the use of pesticides, especially those banned in importing countries, the global best practices necessary to maintain food hygiene, refine testing procedures and take regular corrective actions are important to remain relevant in the competitive global market. Having a reliable product traceability system in place supported by proactive measures with an adequate system for forecasting expected issues and taking corrective action is the most effective way to resolve a number of SPS issues. There is also an urgent need to improve the export infrastructure, including mechanization and mechanization of methods for various processes, proper packaging as well as storage and shipping conditions to maintain good quality of material. export. Finally, the government’s stranglehold on providing market links and a post-harvest value chain, strengthening institutional structures, supporting product value addition and strengthening farmers’ export capacities will go a long way in securing growth. better yields of agricultural products.
The author is a former VC, Maharana Pratap University of Agriculture & Technology, Udaipur
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