New Delhi: Ashok Motiani, an Ahmedabad-based exporter of pomegranates and grapes, is not really into mangoes. But the US decision to allow import of mangoes from India has caught the attention of Motiani, managing director of Freshtrop Fruits Ltd.
Not without reason. Clearance to mango exports is expected to pave the way for several other fruits, including pomegranates, litchis and grapes. “Talks were initiated sometime last year to allow pomegranate exports,” said Motiani, “but nothing concrete has taken shape.”
Pomegranates and grapes will be the next set of fruits to be exported to the US, claims S. Dave, director of agricultural and processed food exports authority (Apeda).
This agriculture ministry-affiliated body issues certificates deeming fruit and vegetables to be disease-free and fit for export.
“Very soon, officials from Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (Aphis) and our representatives will decide on the pest-control measures that have to be taken to facilitate export of these fruits,” he added.
At present, Aphis officials are inspecting the irradiation facilities at Lasalgaon, a village in Maharashtra.
Here, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (Barc) has set up test facilities for food-irradiation, and will be the first such facility to be certified by Aphis—mandatory for importing mangoes to the US.
“We still haven’t got their approval,” said A.K. Sharma, head, food technology department, Barc. “But within a week, I expect their clearance to come through.”
Dave and Motiani, however, both say that for the mango exports to take off, there have to be a lot more Aphis-certified irradiation facilities in the country. Once the Lasalgon facility gets its irradiation approval, Apeda will be in charge of monitoring a long list of conditions that have to be satisfied before mango exporters can send their Alphonso, Kesar, Banganpalli, Langra, Dussehry and Neelam varieties of mangoes to the US.
These conditions are: Irradiating the mangoes at 400 Gray (a unit of measurement); allowing mangoes only from specified orchards; fungicidal treatment of these orchards prior to harvest, and registering the packhouses with Apeda and Aphis. The expense involved in irradiation is also not clear yet. “We are trying to ensure that the cost of irradiating a kilogramme of mango is less than Rs6,” said Sharma.
Mango exports from India were banned 17 years ago, as the US was wary of pests such as the fruit fly and seed-weevil. The latter is a pest that grows inside the seed and can spread rapidly. Irradiation doesn’t kill these pests but sterilizes them—a condition that is acceptable to the US. Japan, which has allowed mango exports from India, was largely concerned with the fruit fly, which is currently dealt by a process—Vapour Heat Treatment. Unlike irradiation, it does not get rid of seed-weevil.