Uttar Pradesh’s Varanasi, which is the gateway to Poovanchal region consisting of 17 districts, is fast becoming a buzzing hub for exports of agricultural and processed food products. The setting up of customs clearance and cold room facilities at Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport aided exports from the religious town, which also has linkages to a robust network of Farmers Producer Organisations (FPOs).
More than 20,000 tonne of cereals, fruits and vegetables sourced from the farmers in several districts including Varanasi, Mirzapur, Prayagraj and Gorakhpur have been exported to Nepal, Bangladesh, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and Australia in the last six months.
“Currently, on an average, around three tonne of green peas and green chillies are being exported daily to the Persian Gulf countries from Varanasi airport,” said Shaswat Pandey, CEO, Trisagar Farmers Producer Company, an FPO based in Sant Ravidas Nagar district, which has around 350 farmers as members. Besides, fruits and vegetables are being transported via road to Nepal and Bangladesh.
Pandey said farmers associated with the FPO grow chillies, green peas, okra, cucumber and other green vegetables which are then exported through the Varanasi airport, where the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Exports Development Authority (APEDA) has set up cold room as well as customs clearances facilities last year. APEDA also facilitated linkages of FPOs with exporters based in Mumbai.
“Exports ensure better price realisation and export opportunities. Infrastructure was virtually absent in eastern Uttar Pradesh earlier,” Shardool Vikram, managing director, Jaya Seed Producers Company, based in Varanasi, said. The FPO, which has 267 members, was instrumental in exporting mangoes, fruits and vegetables to UAE, Bahrain and the United Kingdom.
To boost exports from region, APEDA organised a series of capacity building programmes for the farmers and FPOs followed by international buyer-seller meets, which provided the platform for exports. “We are strengthening the export supply chain around Varanasi region which acts as a window to the Poorvanchal region of Uttar Pradesh,” said M Angamuthu, chairman, APEDA.
Currently, APEDA in collaboration with Uttar Pradesh Mandi Parishad is setting up a pack house and irradiation centre which is mandatory for mango exports to the United States at Mathura which would further boost exports from Uttar Pradesh.
As Varanasi is located on the plains of river Ganges, it has fertile soil which allows production of good quality agri-produce. APEDA, in collaboration with reputed institutions located in the poovanchal, such as Indian Institute of Vegetable Research, International Rice Research Institute and Banaras Hindu University are currently helping farmers in boosting exports.
APEDA is currently developing agri-exports infrastructure at Gorakhpur region following establishment of Kushinagar International Airport through collaboration with institutions such as DDU Gorakhpur University and Indian Institute of Seed Science, Mau.