Bengal’s fruit and vegetable exports to other countries have tanked around 90 per cent since March due to the coronavirus lockdown leading to reduced air cargo services, market closures and supply chain disruptions, said exporters on Saturday.
“The novel coronavirus has severely affected exports here. We can say that we could export roughly five per cent of the consignment,” Ankush Saha, Joint Secretary of the West Bengal Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Exporters’ Welfare Association, told The Indian Express. Bengal regularly exports vegetables such as teasel gourd, bitter gourd, snake gourd and brinjal, and all seasonal fruits.
Saha said the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority, an apex body of agriculture exporters under the Ministry of Commerce and Industries, has not paid attention to the slump. As flight operations gather pace, exporters said the situation has not improved much.
Bulk of vegetables and fruits are exported from the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Airport. They are exported to mostly Dubai, Qatar, Singapore, France, Italy and other European countries.
On an average, 3,000 tonnes of vegetables and fruits are exported from Bengal in six months.
Gopal Saha, proprietor of the export company JBL Enterprise, said earlier his monthly exports have come down to 50 tonnes monthly from 120 tonnes before the lockdown in March.
Another private exporter said, “My company used to export 30 consignments a month till March compared to just eight since April. Our business has been hit badly.”
Exporters also cited increasing freight charges as another reason for the testing times.
“They were charging five times than the normal rates which has helped other countries such as Bangkok, Malaysia, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Pakistan grab our market,” said Saha.
Some traders said mangoes ready to be sent to Europe and Middle East countries could not be exported due to the lockdown. They couldn’t even recover the packaging cost as they had to sell the fruit to local dealers.