As farmers in the country find it tough to sell their produce during the lockdown, the agriculture ministry has initiated efforts to increase the export from the country. The major markets in Mumbai and many other cities are largely shut at present. Organised retailers such as Reliance Retail, D-Mart, Big Basket and Tata Star Bazaar are the major procurers of the farm produce at this time, besides the fragmented unorganised players.
"Almost 70-80 per cent of the farm produce is not reaching the customers now. So the farmers are either delaying the harvest or dumping it after finding no buyers," says a trader in the APMC market in Navi Mumbai.
Agriculture ministry secretary Sanjay Agarwal held talks with the exporters of agri and allied commodities to enhance exports during COVID-19 crisis. The exporters and representatives of associations of producers of agri commodities such as fruits, vegetables, basmati and non-basmati rice, seeds, flowers, plants, organic produce, agriculture equipment and machinery, participated in a video conferencing with the secretary on Monday.
The exporters highlighted issues such as shortage of labour, inter-state transport bottlenecks, shortage of raw materials due to closure of mandis, phyto-sanitary certification and closure of courier services, thereby hampering movement of shipping documents, non-availability of freight services, access to ports and clearance of goods for imports and exports.
The representatives of industries relating to food processing, spices, cashew nuts and machine and equipment sectors requested for permission to operate at least 25-30 per cent of their strength. The issue of internal transport is being addressed by the Ministry of Home Affairs and necessary directives are being issued.
Agarwal said the issues pertaining to port, ocean freight services and courier services will be considered for necessary resolution.
India is a net exporter of agricultural and allied commodities. India's agricultural and allied exports during 2018-19 were Rs 2.73 lakh crore and the sector has always been positive in balance of trade. Previously, exports have resulted into increased production in the agriculture sector.