April 14, 2020
India is a leading producer of agricultural products across fruits, vegetables, grains, cereals, dairy, among others
In 2018-19, exports of agricultural and processed food products totalled US$38.5 billion, led by basmati rice
Indian agricultural, horticultural and processed foods are exported to more than 100 countries and regions
The issues highlighted by exporters of agricultural commodities were related to labour, logistics, and operations
The Government of India has initiated a dialogue with exporters of agricultural and allied commodities to address issues affecting the sector as a fallout of a nationwide lockdown that was imposed to contain the spread of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). On April 14, the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation, and Farmers’ Welfare held a video conference to gain a first-hand account of the problems being faced by the exporters and initiate necessary steps to help them sustain through the current COVID-19 crisis. India is a leading producer of several agricultural products across fruits, vegetables, grains, cereals, dairy, among others. The agriculture sector is a major job and revenue generator for the economy.
In 2018-19, exports of agricultural and processed food products totaled US$38.5 billion. During this period, top exported commodities were basmati rice (US$4.7 billion), buffalo meat (US$3.6 billion), and non-basmati rice (US$3.04 billion). Meanwhile, during April-December 2019, export stood at basmati rice (US$3 billion), buffalo meat (US$2.5 billion), non-basmati rice (US$1.5 billion), and miscellaneous preparations (US$450 million). Indian agricultural and horticultural and processed foods are exported to more than 100 countries and regions, chief among them are the Middle East, Southeast Asia, SAARC countries, the EU, and the US. India’s agri export markets have steadily grown over the years.
The meeting was attended by exporters, representatives of associations of producers/exporters of agri commodities namely, fruits, vegetables, basmati and non-basmati rice, seeds, flowers, plants, organic produce, agriculture equipment, and machinery. At the meeting, the common issues highlighted by exporters of all agricultural commodities were related to availability and movement of labour, inter-state transport bottlenecks, shortage of raw materials due to closure of leading rural markets, phytosanitary certification, closure of courier services thereby hampering the movement of shipping documents, availability of freight services, access to ports/yards and clearance of goods for imports/exports.
The representatives of industries related to food processing, machine, and equipment (M&E) sectors requested permission to open/operate at least 25-30 per cent strength and offered to commit their industries to proper health advisory in their functioning. The issue of internal transport is being addressed by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the necessary directives are being issued. Instructions have also been issued for regular issuance of phytosanitary certificates and acceptance of online certificates. Meanwhile, issues pertaining to port freight services, courier services will be considered for the necessary resolution. The request to open for functioning and sector-specific issues will also be taken up.