NEW DELHI: Multiple reforms introduced by the Government to boost agricultural exports have borne fruit. Despite pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war, India has been able to meet the increased demand and emerge as a significant global supplier of foodgrain and other essential agricultural products.
India’s agriculture exports touched a historic high of $50 billion last year while the target for 2024 has been set at $66 billion. In 2016-17, India’s exports were valued at $33.3 billion, which crossed $49.6 billion last year.
The Russia-Ukraine war has created challenges the world over in terms of foodgrain supplies and the Government of India is looking to step in with a likely export of 100 lakh tonnes of grains this year, with the first quarter itself resulting in orders for 35 lakh tonnes. The global wheat supply has been seriously disrupted because both the warring nations are major wheat producers.
India exported 1.8 million tonnes of wheat, almost four times from the previous year, to countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Israel, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Oman, Philippines, Qatar, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Switzerland, Thailand, UAE, Vietnam and Yemen since it banned exports of the grain on May 13 this year. The wheat export ban came within days of a push to enhance India’s wheat supplies to the rest of the world after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. About 33,000 tonnes of wheat as humanitarian assistance was supplied to Afghanistan against the commitment of 50,000 tonnes.
The other importing countries were Korea, Japan, Italy, and the UK. According to Union Food secretary Sudhanshu Pandey, the decision to bring about a regulation on wheat exports was taken essentially to protect domestic availability as well as availability to vulnerable countries where supplies could not be ensured by market forces.
Though the wheat exports were banned in May, some shipments were allowed to meet the food security needs of the countries that requested for it. Wheat export rose to $1.48 billion in April-September 2022 from $630 million in April-September 2021.
Former Union Agriculture Secretary Ashok Dalwai told Blitz India that India needs to diversify its agricultural exports. The Ukraine war, he said, has created a void which India should definitely fill. But we should not forget that climate change has impacted the productivity worldwide, he added. Dalwai said this is the right time when India not only needs to meet the demands of its farmers but also of the international community.
Exports of agricultural and processed food products rose 25 per cent during the six-month period of this fiscal year. The overall export of the Agricultural and Processed Food Export Development Authority (APEDA) products increased to $13.77 billion in April-September 2022 from $11.05 billion in the same period a year ago. For 2022-23, an export target of $23.56 billion has been fixed by APEDA and export of $13.77 billion has already been achieved in the sixmonth period. India is one of the largest agricultural product exporters in the world. During 2021-22, the country recorded $49.6 billion in total agriculture exports with a 20 per cent increase, from $41.3 billion in 2020-21. India’s agriculture sector primarily exports agricultural & allied products, marine products, plantation, and textile & allied products. Agri & allied products exports were valued at $37.3 billion, recording a growth of 17 per cent over 2020-21.
Rice is the largest exported agricultural product from India and it contributed to more than 19 pc of the total agriculture exports during the year 2021-22. Sugar, spices and buffalo meat are among the largest exported products with the contribution of 9 pc, 8 pc and 7 pc to 2021-22 agriculture exports respectively. Wheat exports were valued at $2.1 billion in 2021-22 after recording significant growth over exports of $568 million in 2021-22 Similarly, export of fresh fruits increased to $313 million during the period under reviews as compared to $301 million a year ago. Export of lentils increased from $135 million to $330 million.
India had provided food aid in the form of wheat, rice, pulses and lentils to several countries around the world, including Afghanistan, Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Lebanon, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Myanmar, Sierra Leone, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Zambia, Zimbabwe and others, to strengthen their food security.
India had exported a record 7 million tonnes of wheat during 2021-22, while typically the country exports around 2 million tonnes, which is around 1 pc of the global wheat trade. During 2021- 22, the US was the largest importer of Indian agricultural products at $5.7 billion with a share at 11.5 pc of the total exports. Bangladesh is the major importer of Agri & allied products at $3.8 billion followed by the UAE at $2.3 billion.