Thursday, 20 January, 2022
HomeDiplomacyAs India’s mango exports to US resume, traders hope ‘smoother’ pre-clearance measures...

As India’s mango exports to US resume, traders hope ‘smoother’ pre-clearance measures will help

Mango exports to US are restarting after 2 years, because Covid stopped US officials from coming for pre-clearance. Govt bodies say Indian officials will now clear consignments.

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New Delhi: Mango exporters in India are keenly awaiting the resumption of exports to the US after a two-year hiatus, and hope that certain pre-clearance measures for the fruit will be carried out “smoothly”, paving the way for greater market access.

Mango and pomegranate exports to the US will start from January-February and pomegranate aril exports will start in April, while the US will allow American cherries and Alfalfa hay to be sold in Indian markets. This is part of the “2 Vs 2” agri market access agreed to by the countries during the 12th India-USA trade policy forum meeting in November last year. 

Since 2020, Indian mango exports have been restricted by the US because officials from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) were unable to fly down to India to monitor irradiation treatment of the fruit, due to Covid-19 restrictions. Irradiation is the process of exposing mangoes to low doses of gamma rays to kill any pests they may be carrying.

However, the commerce ministry Tuesday announced that India and the US would follow “joint protocol” on irradiation for India’s mango exports. 

According to top agricultural government bodies, the final conditions of protocol transfer will be announced in the coming days, but it can be expected that Indian officials themselves will complete irradiation approval going forward.

“The final conditions of protocol transfer will be signed by India’s National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the coming days,” U.K. Vats, general manager of the fresh fruit and vegetable division of the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) — an arm of the commerce ministry — told ThePrint.

Meanwhile, A.K. Singh, deputy director general (horticultural sciences) at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (ICAR), an autonomous body under the agriculture ministry, said, “The US has agreed that irradiation approval can be done by Indian officials instead of officials visiting from the US.” 

Also read: First lockdown, then cyclone — it’s a rotten season for mango trade in Gujarat, Maharashtra

Challenges faced by mango traders, growers

D.K. Sharma, vice president of the Mango Growers’ Association of India, told ThePrint that mango traders and growers are anticipating resumption of exports to the US. “We are very keen on the resumption of mango exports to the US, so long as irradiation measures are carried out smoothly,” he said.

“I think the quality of India’s mangoes would be better if we had more producer exporters. Right now, there are mainly commercial exporters who source mangoes from mandis, and so they are not intimately involved in the production of the fruit,” he added.

According to APEDA’s Vats, treatments like irradiation and vapour heat treatment (VHT) are “costly and cumbersome”. 

“Due to the presence of fruit flies in Indian mangoes, importing countries like South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and the US have specific mitigation measures like VHT and irradiation, which are costly and cumbersome. They are also only available in limited numbers,” added Vats.

There are few irradiation facilities in India — two in Maharashtra, one in Karnataka, and another being set up in Uttar Pradesh. The irradiation facility set up by the Maharashtra State Agricultural Marketing Board (MSAMB), Pune, is a major hub.

Markets like the US, the UK, and the Middle East are expected to grow at least 50 per cent over next year because they have large Indian diasporas, Vats added.

Also read: With RCEP now in force, India must strengthen trade & engage with other blocs, say experts

Decline in mango exports during pandemic

According to APEDA data, fresh mango exports to the US stood at approximately $3.2 million in 2018-19, out of a total $50.1 million in mango exports. The US was India’s fifth biggest export destination for the fruit that year, after the UAE, the UK, Oman and Qatar.

In 2019-20, exports to the US stood at approximately $4.1 million out of a total of $49 million. The US jumped to the third biggest importer that year, after the UAE and the UK. 

In 2020-21, however, the US did not even figure in India’s top 20 destinations for fresh mangoes, with a negligible amount of exports, owing to pandemic-related issues.

However, the export of mangoes in 2022 may surpass the figures for 2019-20, said the commerce ministry, now that the government has secured USDA approval for the fruit.

Asked whether, in the past two years, the US was open to alternatives such as irradiation on arrival, A.K. Singh said: “Yes, they were ready for on-arrival clearance and on-arrival irradiation. However, Indian exporters were sceptical about the losses should there be non-clearance on arrival.”

Meanwhile, pomegranate exports, which don’t require irradiation before being shipped to the US, have steadily grown from $4.1 million in 2018-19, to $4.7 million in 2019-20 and $5.2 million in 2020-21, and are forecasted to reach $5.8 million in 2021-22.

Uncertainties surrounding demand for US cherries

According to the “2 Vs 2” agri market access framework agreement signed by India and the US in November, the US will allow market access for its cherries and alfalfa hay in exchange for India’s mangoes and pomegranates. However, there are uncertainties surrounding the demand for American cherries in India.

“As of today, there is no clear picture on the demand for US cherries in India. The market, consumer liking and demand for this crop in India are not to the tune of the expected demand for pomegranate in the US,” said Singh.

“As per some of the projections, the demand for Indian pomegranate in the US is expected to rise provided we meet the traceability, food safety, and residue free production based on Protected Health Information (PHI) and Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) standards to overcome non-tariff barriers of export,” he added.

Imported cherries in the Indian market currently sell at around Rs 1,000-1,200 per kg, according to industry estimates.

(Edited by Rohan Manoj)

Also read: Agri trade is booming this fiscal, but April-Oct basmati exports fell 23% since last year


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