India’s agriculture business, especially for export, lacks innovative ideas, technologies and suffers from inadequate funding in export-oriented agri-products’ supply chain. It is in this backdrop that the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) has initiated a programme for agri-preneurs on the lines of the Government of India’s ‘Startup India’ initiative. The objective of the ‘Startup Agri-preneurs’ programme is to bring about a revolution in agriculture exports and use it as a key driving force for Aatmanirbhar Bharat. It aims to boost agriculture exports by promoting budding startup agri-preneurs, which in turn contributes to the growth of the very basic unit of agriculture, the farmers, by facilitating the startups to source the products directly from the rural agricultural areas.
In 2018 India was ranked 44th among 160 countries on World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index, while China was placed 26th, Chile was at 34 and South Africa was at 33rd. One major concern about the stagnant growth of agriculture exports is the high logistics cost which is estimated at around 13 per cent of the GDP. APEDA is addressing this issue by implementing digitalization of export-oriented agri-produce supply chains. This is expected to improve transparency, reduce inefficiencies, reduce logistics cost and enhance overall global competitiveness. It is encouraging agri-preneurs to develop the infrastructure such as pack houses to maintain a cold chain of agri-produce supply. APEDA has been converging and dovetailing financial assistance schemes for agriculture exports from various departments of state and central governments and guiding budding exporters to reap the benefits from these schemes. It is facilitating agri-produce startups under the scheme of infrastructure development to set up facilities to handle post-harvest so as to reduce losses due to spoilage and ensure quality production of agro products.
Roping in agri varsities
APEDA has been interacting with state agricultural universities, Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) institutions, and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) institutes on food processing and suggesting introduction of courses on agri exports to orient these startups for international sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) requirements of importing countries. It is in the process of signing MoUs with all state agriculture universities, ICAR institutions and stakeholders in agri-product supply chain. APEDA has signed an MoU with Indian Institute of Millet Research, Hyderabad, Telangana strengthening the supply, implementing international standards and regulation for export for millet which is in demand as a super food. The main objective of signing the MoU is to build the capacity of farmers to produce agricultural goods as per international standards and improve export-oriented supply chain on a pan-India basis. It has also signed an MoU with Indian Institute of Packaging, Mumbai to develop export-oriented packaging for all exportable agriculture products. All these activities are being carried out to build a healthy ecosystem for these agritech startups in India.
Developed countries are continuously raising the bar of food safety parameters and insisting on compliance with their strict standards and regulations on food products. These stringent requirements are a difficult bar to meet for these new agri-preneurs. Majority of these importing countries demand a strict adherence to the prescribed Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs). Installation of quality management systems, laboratory testing equipment, held devices for capturing farm level peripheral coordinates for traceability systems and testing of samples, etc., helps in achieving such prescribed standards for the purpose of exports. APEDA assists these business endeavours by setting up labs and giving information about the regulatory requirements of importing countries and extending subsidies for international certifications viz CE, HACCP, ISO etc. It updates the startups about these demanding standards and regulatory requirements and suggests mitigation plans to meet the high MRLs.
To strengthen the export-oriented agri-produce supply chain for budding agri-preneurs, APEDA is guiding them through the Internet of things (IoT) platform and its usage in the agriculture value chain including precision farming, plant health monitoring and use of drones for precision agriculture, packaging, tracking of produce in transit. APEDA is also guiding exporters and agri-preneurs to meet the challenges posed by global warming and to reorient and implement agriculture practices to deal with emission of greenhouse gases during agriculture process.
Another important facet of the aid APEDA aims to provide is the evolution of structured marketing strategies for export of food products, market intelligence to make informed decisions, skill development, capacity building and high quality packaging. By extending financial aid through the market development plan, all of these can be executed in addition to international exposure by organizing buyer-seller meets, exchange of trade delegations and opportunities to participate in international trade fairs.
22 Trial shipments
To motivate the startup agri-preneurs, APEDA has commenced 22 trial shipments of ethnic food products such as Moringa, Organic Millets, Red rice, Flavoured Jaggery powder, Jamun fruits, Burmese grapes, Dragon fruits, etc. APEDA is supplying information to startup agri-preneurs on export of organic and Geographical Indication (GI) agriculture products and expedite registration of new GI agri products with the GI registry in Chennai.
APEDA has also developed an agri-exchange portal for exporters to equip them with information on matrix of market research, analysis, intelligence and identification of products. This portal has data on agriculture exports and analysis to unveil the export tracks for startup agripreneurs. Market intelligence reports of various countries are also hosted on APEDA website with country-specific agri export strategy and missives on India’s tariff disadvantages in agricultural exports. APEDA is regularly releasing E-APEX newsletters containing export marketing intelligence information.
APEDA is also educating agripreneurs on foreign trade policy, fiscal and financial initiatives given by the government.
(The author is Chairman, APEDA. Views are personal)