Varanasi: When most of the vegetable growers and farmers were facing losses due to dip in prices of their produce in local markets during the coronavirus pandemic, some of them made inroads into foreign markets and shipped consignments to UK, Australia and Gulf countries.
The turnaround was made possible with the combined efforts of Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) and state government officials, who ensured formation of farm produce organisations (FPOs) for the export of green chilli, bottle gourd (lauki), cucumber and mango to Dubai and UK and varieties of rice from Chandauli to Australia and Qatar.
APEDA is a body under the Union ministry of commerce and industry which is responsible for export promotion of agricultural products. The Authority has now opened its regional office in Varanasi.
Ramkumar Rai, an academician-turned-agriculturist created history in the agriculture sector by forming an FPO at Joga Musahir village in Bhanvarkole area which exported green vegetables to UK and Dubai.
“Besides various states of the country, I have been exporting vegetables to Nepal and Bangladesh for the last 15 years. In 2015, I started exporting vegetables to Dubai and other Gulf countries. When the prices of green vegetables were at its lowest during coronavirus lockdown, I got an export order from London (UK) which was a first for the region,” Rai says.
“It was a challenging task at a time when all means of transportation were unavailable. We ensured special permission for refrigerated vans to take the consignment to the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi for its dispatch to London,” says divisional commissioner Deepak Agrawal.
“Mangoes from the region were sent to mango pack house in Rehman Kheda in Lucknow for packaging as per export standards before being sent to Dubai or UK. Now, we are trying to develop pack houses in Varanasi itself. Once it is done, the produce will be exported from LBS International Airport through the cargo facility at Rajatalab, which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in July 2018,” he says.
Speaking on export orders that materialised during Covid-19 lockdown, assistant general manager, APEDA, CB Singh says: “APEDA has been working hard to make the region an export hub. Fortunately, it became possible during lockdown when every industry started struggling. Most of the farmers had started leaving their produce in farms as they were unable to bear the expense of labour involved in harvesting.”
“Okra, sponge guard, bottle gourd and green chilli were sold at Rs 2-5 per kg,” he recalls.
“In such a situation, APEDA acted as a bridge between farmers and exporters and provided a platform to all stakeholders to interact and make things easy for farmers. APEDA officials visited farm fields to sort out export quality products and prepared the roadmap for the export of mangoes and vegetables from Varanasi region,” he says.
“Export orders for fresh vegetables and mangoes increased the earnings by up to 2-3 times than the average price received by farmers for their produce,” Singh adds.
Apart from green vegetables and mangoes, black rice and Samba variety of rice from Chandauli were also purchased in bulk by a firm in Ghazipur for export to Australia and Qatar.
“Chandauli farmers were earning Rs 1,840 per quintal as per the minimum support price announced by the government or up to Rs 2,500 per quintal in local market. But, this firm purchased black rice at Rs 8,500 per quintal which was almost four times the MSP of the last Kharif crop,” Singh says.
According to APEDA officials, farmers of the region have succeeded in hitting the markets in Dubai, Oman, London and Australia with their produce in the last few months. Export of bananas from Ghazipur is also in the queue. Market is also being explored in Gulf, Europe and South East Asia for export.

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