Nutritious, niche food exports to get big push

New Delhi: The government is planning to give a big push to agriculture exports to capitalise on the rising global demand for healthy and nutritious food products.

“During this pandemic, people world-over have realised the importance of immunity booster food products like herbal, medicinal, organic and nutri-cereals like jowar, bajra and ragi. India is one of the largest producers of such products. We will promote branding, marketing and export of such niche products which will be in great demand,” said a senior agriculture ministry official.

The agriculture export policy launched in 2018 also focuses on cluster-based export promotion of novel, indigenous, organic, ethnic, traditional and non-traditional agri products including value-added perishables.

“There is limited scope of export in food grains. We can export rice which we are doing. But our wheat is not competitive in global markets and we produce pulses just enough to meet our requirements. We have to focus on niche products with high value,” the official said.

India is a net exporter of agricultural products. In FY19 such exports amounted to ₹2.7 lakh crore and imports stood at ₹1.37 lakh crore.

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, last week, spoke of production of herbal, medicinal, nutritious and organic food items through the cluster-based approach for tapping the unexplored export market.

“The government has announced a stimulus of ₹10,000 crore to promote medicinal, organic and ethnic food products through clusterbased approach. For example, food products rich in nutritious ragi can be developed in Karnataka, bamboo shoots in Assam and chillies in Andhra Pradesh,” said another official.

He said that the ₹4,000-crore package for promoting planting of herbal plants will help farmers earn ₹5,000 crore by selling it in domestic as well as global markets.

According to the agri export promotion body Apeda chairman PK Borthakur, demand for India’s organic agricultural products is about ₹8,500 crore, out of which 60% is international.

“India exported organic products worth ₹5,151 crore in 2018-19, from ₹3,453 crore in 2017-18,” Apeda had said in a statement.

The proposed amendment in the antiquated Essential Commodities Act 1955 will also help the government in framing a steady export policy for cereals, pulses and onions which have been brought out of the gambit of this law along with edible oil which we import in large quantities.