As Kerala marks one year of its successful battle against the Nipah outbreak, Saudi Arabia is lifting the ban on imports of fruits and vegetables from the state imposed in June 2018.
Exports of vegetables and fruits to the Saudi airports of Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam are already back in full swing through the state's airports after Saudi authorities recently lifted the ban.
Though the other GCC countries like UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar had lifted the ban on imports in 2018 itself after the state was declared Nipah-free in July, Saudi was continuing with the embargo on perishable cargo from Kerala. Exporters have been taking up the matter with the Saudi authorities through external affairs ministry and people's representatives.
"The exports to Saudi Arabia, which is a major market for fruits and vegetable from the state, are now back in full swing. We are now exporting around 20 tonnes of cargo a day from Karipur airport alone to Saudi and the other airports too have resumed exports," P.E. Ashraf Ali of Pomona Exports said.
According to industry sources, Kerala exports around 150 tonnes of perishable commodities like vegetables and fruits to Gulf countries on a daily basis through its airports. Fruit exports are expected to pick up further, especially during the upcoming Eid-ul-Fitr festivities.
The move has come as a relief for many local farmers as they get higher prices from export agencies when compared to domestic markets.
"There is now good demand for mangoes and banana, apart from vegetables from Saudi and the lifting of the import restriction have helped both the exporters and farmers. Some exporters used to route the consignments through neighbouring airports like Bengaluru and Coimbatore to honour export obligations but it meant additional cost of around Rs 19 per kg making it unviable," Ashraf added.