For the first time, Kuwait has isolated Nipah virus affected Kerala for import of fruits and vegetables from the rest of India.Kuwait has opened import of fruits and vegetables from the rest of India, but has continued its ban on the purchase of horticulture products from Kerala due to the virus that affected the state earlier this year.
Most countries in the Middle East, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait, banned the import of fruits and vegetables from India early June due to spread of Nipah virus, which claimed about two dozen lives in Kerala.
Contagious and untreatable, the brain-damaging virus hit Kerala in May with fruit bat of the Pteropodidae family being its natural host, according to the World Health Organisation. As a result, major importing nations are wary of the produce grown in Kerala and have also issued severe travel advisories against visiting the state. The timing is expected to hit the southern state hard, as fruit export generally swells in the month of Ramadan.
“Banning import from the whole of India was illogical when the virus was reported only in one state. For the first time, importing countries, like Kuwait, have isolated a virus-affected state or region in this manner on import from there while opening up procurement from the rest of the country. It is a welcome move by Kuwait, which we believe other importing countries would also follow in the future,” said Anil Patil, proprietor, Incoexcofarms, a Pune-based fruits exporter.
Indian exporters of fruits of vegetables, however, believe that orders have started coming in and exports could re-start in a couple of days, with India being one of the closest partners of the Middle East countries in the world.
A directive issued by Dr Khaled Ali Al — Fadhel, undersecretary, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of Kuwait, said, “It has been decided to lift the ban on import of vegetables and fruits (fresh, chilled and frozen) from the Republic of India, while keeping the ban on their import from Kerala due to the outbreak of Nipah virus till further notice.”
The directive clarifies that all contravening provisions of this resolution will, therefore, be cancelled and all authorities concerned have to implement this decision with immediate effect.
The Gulf region is India’s largest market for fruit and vegetables, with the UAE being the single biggest importing nation on both counts. Cashew and mango, official data shows, dominate the export list among fruits. Unfortunately, the cashew industry is based out of Kerala. India is the largest exporter of mango in the world, with more than 40 per cent of global production.