After Middle East, state gears up to export vegetables to Europe, America
Kolkata: Buoyed by the overwhelming response in vegetable export to countries of the Middle East, the Mamata Banerjee government is gearing up to export the same to Europe and America. The state Food Processing & Horticulture department that had initiated the process of vegetable export to the Middle East in August last year is now working hard to augment the production and develop the necessary infrastructure for storage by working in tandem with the Agriculture, Agri-Marketing and West Bengal Agro Industries Corporation Limited.
The Horticulture department has been exporting vegetables like gourd, shrimp (jhinga), bitter gourds, yard long beans, ladies fingers, parval etc to countries of the Middle East from August last year. The maximum demand has been for ladies finger, yard long beans, luffa vegetables and chillies. The best variety of vegetables that are of export quality is being grown in districts of Bankura as no chemicals or pesticides are used.
"We are identifying some virgin lands in the western part of the state popularly known as Paschimanchal for growing more vegetables. The land will be made fit for farming by minor irrigation and organic manure. Experts from academics and administrative level have been roped in for making it cultivable as well as to impart lessons on how to produce on these lands," Subhasish Batabyal, vice chairman of West Bengal Agro Industries Corporation Limited said.
However, sources in the Horticulture department pointed out that the government is crippled by lack of transportation facilities for the export of vegetables.
Around 2.5 tonnes of vegetables are being exported per day by air to the Middle East but the demand is much more. Recently, the department has started exporting vegetables like oal or yam and pumpkin by sea route. Chillies, however, have not yet passed the standards for export.
"Our Chief Minister has been constantly interacting with the Union Civil Aviation Department pressing for a direct flight to Europe from the city. If our demand is met, then export will soon be a reality. Otherwise, we have to arrange for logistics to Mumbai or Delhi for export to Europe and America," an official in the Horticulture department said.
"We have been sending consignments of mangoes to the European Union for the last few years."
A senior official of the department said that the state will soon come up with a food processing policy intended to create a host of incentives for investors.
"We are preparing a study on agri-horti-logistics infrastructure, the idea being to identify and narrow certain gaps which hinder the growth of this sector," the official added.
In an effort to boost the food processing sector, the department is providing subsidy for setting up packhouses (warehouses where produce are cleaned, graded and stored temporarily) and cold storage modifications.