Agri Business

India has emerged as consistent, reliable supplier of agricultural products: APEDA Chairman

Subramani Ra Mancombu Chennai | Updated on April 19, 2021

India’s exports of rice, wheat and millets witnessed an impressive rise in 2020-21.

Agricultural exports, particularly Agricultural and Processed Food Exports Development Authority (APEDA) scheduled products, were one of the bright spots of the last fiscal.

There was an increased demand for food products to meet food security needs in other countries and despite challenges on the logistics front, the Indian government supported and helped at each step to facilitate shipments, says APEDA Chairman Dr M Angamuth.

India supplied food items through chartered planes on demand from some countries. As a result, the country has emerged as a “consistent and reliable supplier”. “We have gained significant goodwill this year for supplying interrupted quality goods despite limitations,” says the APEDA chairman in an e-mailed interview to BusinessLine.


Exports of APEDA scheduled products increased 21.3 per cent during April-February last fiscal. What helped exports when Covid affected trade due to various reasons, including freight movements?

There is an increase of 21.3 per cent in dollar terms and 26.3 per cent in rupees terms during the April-Feb period of the last fiscal in comparison to the same period the previous year. All the sectors have shown improvement. In fresh vegetables and seed, there is an increase of 12.2 per cent in dollar terms and 17.5 per cent in rupee terms. In fresh vegetables, there is an increase of 12 per cent in dollar term and 17.5 per cent in rupee terms. Pulses have shown a good improvement of 26.3 per cent in dollar term and 32.6 per cent in rupee term. Processed vegetables have shown an increase of 36.5 per cent in dollar terms and 42.7 per cent in rupee terms. Processed food has increased 7.3 per cent in dollar terms and 11.8 per cent in rupee terms. Dairy products have also shown improvement of 10.8 per cent in dollar terms and 15 per cent in rupee terms. Groundnuts have shown an increase of 3 per cent in dollar terms and 7 per cent in rupee terms. Cereal based processed food items have also shown an increase of 13.6 per cent in dollar terms and 18.4 per cent in rupee terms. Milled products which include mainly various kinds of flour have increased 34.3 per cent in dollar terms and 40.3 in rupee terms. Alcoholic beverages have also shown good improvement of 42.3 per cent in dollar terms and 38.4 per cent in rupee terms. Misc. processed food items have shown good improvement of 30.2 per cent in dollar term and 35.7 per cent in rupee term. There is a little dip in fresh fruits of 6.4 per cent in dollar terms and 3 per cent in rupee terms and poultry products 29.5 per cent in dollar terms and 26.5 per cent in rupee terms.

In the case of rice, especially non-basmati rice has shown a significant increase of 122.6 per cent in dollar terms and 132 per cent in rupee terms. In case of wheat, Indian wheat is not price competitive, this year it has increased 643 per cent in dollar terms and 671.5 per cent in rupee terms. Other cereals including millet have also increased 233.3 per cent in dollar terms and 244.6 per cent in rupee terms.

Overall there is good improvement and this is an encouraging step.

Covid has definitely given us challenges but at the same time, it has given us opportunities as well. In general, there was an increase in the demand for food products in order to meet food security needs and though there were challenges with respect to logistics and supplies, Government-support at each step helped and facilitated the exporters and processors in meeting the increased demand internationally.

Cereal exports increased 47.68 per cent during the same period. In particular, our rice exports recorded a new high and maize shipments hit a six-year high. How was this possible and what helped?

India’s exports of cereals – rice, wheat and coarse cereals -- witnessed an impressive rise during the April- February 2020-21 period. The requirement emerged for rice, wheat and maize in the importing countries which was due to the fact that other supplying countries were not able to undertake exports due to disruption in supply at their end. India was able to export by tapping the opportunity.

What were some of the country-specific initiatives or approaches that APEDA took on the export front?

APEDA worked in close coordination with various departments and interacted with trade on a day-to-day basis to ensure that exports were not affected. Regular Buyer Seller Meets (BSMs) and B2B interactions were conducted virtually. The issues of trade were handled on priority. We managed to continue exports, met the international commitments and ensured that supplies were not interrupted. In some cases, India also supplied food items through chartered planes on demand of the respective countries. India is seen as a consistent and reliable supplier and we have gained significant goodwill this year for supplying interrupted quality goods despite limitations.

APEDA has identified 28 non-tariff barriers for potential export products. What are these barriers and what are the gains that India made by exporting these products?

There are a number of trade barriers we are facing. For example, in the case of livestock, importing countries are imposing a condition of Foot and Mouth Disease-free status for meat and milk products. Some of the countries are also asking that the produce exported should be from pest-free areas, unreasonable low levels of aflatoxin in peanut products, and pesticide residue at default level. These are few non-tariff barriers being faced by Indian products for which we are taking up the issues with respective countries through bilateral and multilateral forums. These non-tariff barriers are definitely affecting our progress in exports but despite this, we are showing improvements in general.

How did the initiative on virtual buyer-seller meet (V-BSM) help? In particular, the March 10-12, 2020 V-BSM meet?

With traditional export markets going into lockdown and imposing travel restrictions to control the Covid-19 outbreak, exporters and importers of the country are finding it difficult to connect with global buyers to keep their business going.

To deal with these emerging issues, APEDA worked on an innovative way to engage exporters with global buyers –virtual trade fair or VTF. The first trade fair was organised for Indian rice and agro commodity themes and focused on showcasing the strengths of various agricultural products of India during 10-12 March 2021.

The first trade fair lead to a success as per the following details :

• With 313 exhibitors already registered and 128 stalls already set up, the exporters/executives were seen available on the text chat window of the application.

• The event witnessed 312 visitors from various countries viz. India, UAE, Brazil, New Zealand, France etc.

• The event finally ended on a good note with 82 satisfied exhibitors and 404 total visitors.

What were the new market access that Indian agri products got during the 2020-21 fiscal? What efforts went in, especially by APEDA, to get the access?

Over a period of time, APEDA has managed to gain market access for various agri-commodities totalling 94 such as Basmati rice, special rice varieties such as Mattan rice, Pokkali rice, Ajara Ghansal rice, Mangalweda Jowar, fruits such as Coorg Orange, Vazhakulam pineapple and Madurai malli (jasmine). In the case of livestock products, we have gained market access in Indonesia and Russia for buffalo meat. These market access were received through continuous follow up, negotiations with the respective agencies of the country and in close coordination with the Ministry of Commerce and our Missions (abroad).

Can you tell us about the focus on GI products from India and how it helped?

India has been a major exporter of agri products. Many of the exported agri products are registered Geographical Indications (GI) in India. As on date, there are 370 registered GI products of which 130 are agricultural and Food GI. Among the registered GI under Agriculture, 94 registered geographical indications fall under the category of APEDA scheduled products (Cereals, Fresh Fruits and vegetables, processed products etc). (See Table) Geographical Indications is a powerful tool which depicts uniqueness and distinct characteristics to a product which increases its market value. The consumers are attracted to the quality and specialty of these products. While competing in the international market, GI products will give a brand image to the India origin products and make it popular across the globe. Basmati Rice is a classical example of India’s GI tag which is a popular brand across the globe.

APEDA has taken various initiatives to promote registered GI products from India such as virtual Buyer Seller Meet, promoting GI products through promotional events, promotion and development of exports of basmati rice and its protection as GI, Social media, promotion and preparing digital atlas and traceability etc. This has helped in at least increasing awareness about the GI products and its relevance and importance both for the manufacturer, growers and the importers. In the coming times, APEDA will be concentrating more on identified GI products to ensure that they receive the treatment they deserve.

Can you please explain the concept of export promotion forums? What was the significant achievement from the forums?

Considering the importance of export of horticulture produce, cereals and dairy products, and to give an impetus to the export of its key potential products as well as to remove the bottlenecks in the supply chain, the need for having product-specific export promotion forums emerged. With an objective to have focused deliberations among the stakeholders for the export potential products and preparing a road map for enhancing exports, the Export Promotion Forums (EPF) were constituted for banana, grapes, onion, mango, pomegranate, floriculture, rice, nutri-cereals and dairy products.

The Export Promotion Forums (EPFs) include representatives of the Department of Commerce, Department of Agriculture, State Governments, National Referral Laboratories and top 10 leading exporters of each product.

Can you tell us a little more about the Branding Indian Agriculture Sector in Middle-East Countries?

For promoting agriculture exports in the potential countries including the Middle-East countries, APEDA has prepared country-specific agri export strategy in consultation with Indian Missions of these countries. The objective was to assess the potential of export of APEDA products in these countries and prepare the strategy for increasing the exports.

During the Covid pandemic, the export promotion programme was not possible physically. APEDA took an initiative for organising Virtual Buyer Seller meets in the potential countries in association with Indian Missions of the respective countries. APEDA organised such VBSMs with seven countries ie. UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Iran in the Middle-East region. This has provided a virtual platform to the exporters and importers for interaction further for conducting business.

A virtual meeting on Strategy for increasing exports of Agri products in the Gulf region was organised with the Indian Embassies of GCC Countries (Oman, Saudi Arabia, UAE & Bahrain) on May 20, 2020. Senior officials from the Department of Commerce; Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, MPEDA, Spices Board, Tea Board, Ministry of External Affairs, leading exporters and importers present in the meeting gave valuable suggestions for exploring the opportunities and formulating a roadmap for boosting exports to the Gulf region.



Published on April 19, 2021

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