Agri-tech can be a newfound opportunity to bring back glory to Indian farmers and help them ramp up their contribution to India’s GDP.
India has vast untapped potential to expand its farm produce exports thereby boosting farmers’ income. Although, since the beginning of 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has largely disrupted global supply chains, India has been able to bolster its agricultural and processed food products exports.
The agricultural sector contributes about 15% to India’s GDP, sustaining roughly half the country’s population. With over 265 million people engaged in farming, India is the second-largest producer of fruits and vegetables. But it still has a long road to travel for exporting its farm produce.
According to a research by the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), India exported agricultural produce (fruits and vegetables) worth only USD 1,342.14 million in 2020. This portends a grim scenario since India’s share in global exports of horticultural produce is a mere 2%, a major impediment to improved performance being its inability to meet export quality requirements.
India is the largest producer of mangoes in the world with almost 40.48% of the world’s total output. But, in 2014, the EU banned mango imports due to the presence of fruit flies. Similar bans were imposed on other products—including grapes, okra, peanuts, curry leaves, chilies, rice, and tamarind—in world markets, such as the US, Vietnam, EU, Saudi Arabia, Japan and Bhutan.
The traditional methods that farmers/retailers use—based on their experience—to judge the quality of produce and anticipate the time it will take before it ripens and rots leave room for serious errors, leading to entire consignments being rendered useless by the time they reach their destination.
India’s food export policy
The Indian government has formulated new export policy in this direction. According to the Agriculture Export Policy, 2018, Krishi Vigyan Kendras will adopt export-oriented technology and create awareness of export prospects among farmers. This policy aims at doubling farmers’ income by 2022—by increasing the volume of agri-horticultural exports from India and integrating Indian farmers with the global value chain.
· Measuring food safety in terms of nutritional value, biotic and abiotic contaminants, moisture and sugar content, acidity, soluble solids, shelf life and so on
· Measuring quality in terms of external factors, like ripeness, texture, appearance, uniformity, firmness, maturity and freshness
· Applications that provide suggestion and traceability and can be used for better and informed decision-making
· Testing fruits and vegetables by exporters/farmers at their end within seconds without having to transport them to labs
· Testing of fruits and vegetables that cannot easily be judged by look and feel
India must focus on product quality in domestic markets so that processors and farmers get more incentives to invest in quality. Agri-tech can be a newfound opportunity to bring back glory to Indian farmers and help them ramp up their contribution to India’s GDP. The Covid-19-induced pandemic has globally strengthened people’s sentiments towards fresh and better quality food. We have to make the most of the technology that is available to be at par with the safety and quality standards that importing nations demand.
Source: Business World