Sharp growth in exports of cereals, oil meals, sugar, cotton, fresh vegetables and vegetable oil boosted India’s agriculture exports by 17.34 per cent in 2020-21 to $41.25 billion after hovering around $38 billion or lower in the last three years with the farm sector responding positively to opportunities presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, Commerce Secretary Anup Wadhawan has said.

“In 2021-22 also the momentum is being sustained with growth in the first two months at 43 per cent. This is a success story we should sustain with some efforts,” Wadhawan said addressing a media briefing on Thursday.

This is all because of the opportunities that Covid-19 offered that were capitalised upon by exporting a wider variety of products to a larger number of countries, the Secretary said.

Increased exports

“The increase in exports is thanks to the ability of our agriculture sector to respond to the opportunity. It was also on account of various programmes emanating from the Agriculture Export Policy that were implemented in decentralised manner across States, districts and clusters. There are several success stories coming out of various clusters,” Wadhawan added.

India’s overall goods exports contracted 7.26 per cent in 2020-21, recording $290.63 billion, but the farm sector was relatively less affected by the disruptions of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The steepest growth in exports in 2020-21 was seen in items such as non-basmati rice growing by 136.04 per cent to $ 4.79 billion, wheat by 774.17 per cent to $ 549.16 million, other cereals by 238.28 per cent to $ 694.14 million.

Other agricultural products, which posted significant increase in exports, as compared to 2019-20, were oil meals ($1.57 billion -growth of 90.28 per cent), sugar ($2.78 billion - growth 41.88 per cent), raw cotton ($1.89 billion - growth 79.43 per cent), fresh vegetables ($721.47 million - growth 10.71 per cent) and vegetable oils ($602.77 million- growth 254.39 per cent).

Exported locations

Largest markets for India’s agriculture products were the US, China, Bangladesh, UAE, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Nepal, Iran and Malaysia with exports posting the sharpest growth in Indonesia (102.42 per cent ), Bangladesh (95.93 per cent ) and Nepal (50.49 per cent).

Export of spices like ginger, pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, saffron etc., which have known therapeutic qualities, has also grown substantially during the year, the Secretary said. Export of spices touched the highest ever level of around $4 billion during 2020-21.

Growth in organic exports

Organic exports posted a 50.94 per cent to $ 1.04 billion as against USD 689 million in 2019-20, registering a growth of 50.94 per cent. Organic exports include oil cake/ meals, oil seeds, cereals and millets, spices and condiments, tea, medicinal plant products, dry fruits, sugar, pulses and coffee.

Cereal was exported to several countries for the first time for India, another Commerce Ministry official pointed out. “Rice has been exported to countries like Timor-Leste, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Brazil and some others for the first time. Similarly wheat has been exported to countries like Yemen, Indonesia and Bhutan, and other cereals have been exported to Sudan, Poland and Bolivia,” the official said.

Exports have also taken place from several clusters for the first time. For instance, export of fresh vegetables and mangoes from Varanasi and black Rice from Chandauli has taken place for the first time, directly benefiting farmers of the area. Exports have also taken place from other clusters viz. oranges from Nagpur, banana from Theni and Ananthpur and mango from Lucknow.