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Apeda bets on IT-based initiatives to speed up export processes

Subramani Ra Mancombu Chennai | Updated on April 26, 2021

Some of the major initiatives include, paperless office, enabling digital signatures and electronic payment, phase-wise delivery of online services, monitoring and evaluation

The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (Apeda) has launched a slew of information technology (IT) initiatives over the last couple of years to help speed up shipments through “more efficient and effective” measures.

According to Apeda Chairman M Angamuthu, the Commerce Ministry arm has emerged as a pioneer in making use of IT for promotion and development of exports and thus help shippers speed up their process.

“The emphasis has been to simplify and rationalise existing rules, besides introducing information technology to make governance more efficient and effective,” the Apeda Chairman said.

Among the major initiatives undertaken by Apeda are paperless office, enabling digital signatures and electronic payment facilities, phase-wise delivery of online services, monitoring and evaluation, uniform access to shippers and conducting virtual trade fairs.

Under the paperless office initiative, shippers no longer need to visit any Apeda office to get registration-cum-membership certification (RCMC). They can submit the fee online with supporting documents.

In turn, Apeda will generate and issue RCMC using digital signature that can be downloaded. During the ongoing Covid pandemic, this initiative has helped exporters to avoid physical contacts besides saving their time spent in travel.

In addition, Apeda had also achieved cent per cent digitization of issuing registration-cum-allocation certificate (RCAC), by enabling online payment gateway and digital signatures. This process was cumbersome earlier with exporters having to submit documents in person and then sending their representatives to collect RCAC or receive by post.

“Now, they can receive the certificates within minutes of applying, digitally signed by Apeda official. This has reduced the processing time for issuing RCAC and helped save previous man hours for exporters,” Angamuthu said.

Similarly, Apeda has integrated peanut processing units and laboratories into a single window system for certification of peanut (groundnut) exports. This includes issuing online certificates of exports. The authority has also launched similar initiatives with regard to meat exports.

On the other hand, Apeda has begun implementing a traceability system for grapes, organic products, peanut and meat in phases. In the first phase, it has launched Hortinet covering 40-plus vegetables, besides mango, pomegranate, citrus and other fruits.

“Registration of farmers for these products by State Horticulture Departments has begun and the system is already operational in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, with other State governments likely to join soon,” the Apeda Chairman said.

APEDA has also developed a traceability System for Basmati rice (a registered GI product). Currently, the registration has begun in western Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir (two Districts).

The entire certification and traceability system will soon be launched for all stakeholders, from packhouses to the Phyto-sanitary department.

With the advent of Blockchain and its immutable nature, a number of attempts are being made worldwide to use it for traceability solutions. “APEDA, being a pioneer, has also been studying it and has implemented a Blockchain solution as a part of its popular GrapeNet, to begin with,” said Angamuthu.

The APEDA model is unique in the sense the authority is implementing a hybrid solution combining its traditional web-based SaaS model for its stakeholders, augmented by an authentic, private Blockchain layer for further data security and authentication, he said.

From April last year, Apeda has also launched a FarmerConnect portal to help farmer producers' organisations, cooperatives and exporters. This helps them to create profiles and post their sale offers on the web platform. Exporters can also post their enquiries or needs, and view matching sale offers.

One of the unique online initiatives of Apeda is the virtual trade fair that is a meeting place for exhibitors, visitors, exporters and industry to exchange information on new products and establish new partnerships.

The virtual trade fair comprises a master website with information of current events, specific trade fair Website, registrations, a fair-like experience with visitors entering the main hall and then visiting other halls or conferences.

Those coming forward to exhibit their products in the virtual fair have many facilities including those for chats and video calls with interested parties.

These initiatives have, in fact, helped Indian agricultural exports fare well during Covid pandemic when shipments were affected due to various factors, including lockdowns.

Published on April 26, 2021

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