Apeda moots overseas storage facilities

Apeda moots overseas storage facilities

Kochi: Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (Apeda), a government-run export promotion body, plans to set up storage, pack-house and cold-storage infrastructure in key banana importing countries in an effort to boost exports.

India leads the world in banana production, accounting for almost one-quarter of the worldwide crop. But its banana exports are dismally low.

Apeda recently created storage facilities for flowers at Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Storage facilities for bananas will follow the same model, Apeda officials said.

Initially, Apeda plans to use the facility at Rotterdam for storing bananas, said A.S. Rawat, general manager of Apeda. In the second stage, it will set up similar facilities in West Asia and other upcoming markets for Indian bananas, he said. Flower storage facilities are being planned in Dubai and Tokyo, and Apeda will consider extending them to store bananas as well, he said.

Storage infrastructure for bananas will also be set up at Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu and Jalgaon in Maharashtra in collaboration with the National Horticulture Mission, a government-sponsored scheme that aims to promote horticulture.

During a visit last week to the National Centre for Banana Research (NCBR) in Tiruchirapalli, minister of state for commerce Jairam Ramesh said India produces 20 million tonnes of bananas annually, which accounts for 23% of the global output, but it does not figure in the global exports of the fruit worth more than $4 billion (Rs15,720 crore).

Brazil, the second largest banana grower, accounts for less than 8% of the global market, he said.

Since more than 500,000 small and medium farmers are involved in banana cultivation in India, the government is looking at a cluster approach that will bring together growers and banana product manufacturers. NCBR has an allocation of Rs31 crore for research.

“Banana production in India has doubled in the past 20 years. The challenge will be to double it in the next 10 years with emphasis on the low-productivity states such as Assam, Bihar, West Bengal, Kerala and Uttar Pradesh," Ramesh said.

Processing will be another focus area as hardly 3-4% of Indian bananas are processed.

The global banana market is controlled by multinationals such as Dole Food Co., Chiquita Brands International and Del Monte Produce Inc.

This is the first time India is attempting to make a dent in the market.