Now you can trace eight more Indian farm products from birth

By Rajeev Ranjan Roy, IANS,

New Delhi : You’ll soon be able to tell which orchard your mango came from and if any pesticide was used while it was growing. India is extending the system by which you can trace the life history of a farm product to eight more to ensure quality control.

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Under the system, a farm product will have a specific code through which an importer can trace its origin and pesticide residue level in it if he has any doubts.

The eight new items that will be covered by the system are mango, pomegranate, onion, basmati rice, honey, poultry, groundnuts and organic products.

“The traceability system (as it is called) is a requirement of the importers and should cover as many products as possible to ensure their quality. It is a kind of mechanism that offers online the details of a particular product,” said Asit Tripathy, chairman of the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA).

APEDA, India’s official agency to monitor export of processed food and farm products, introduced the traceability system in 2006 for monitoring fresh grapes exported from India to Europe. Called Grapenet, it was an Internet-based residue traceability software system.

It now covers over 35,000 grapes growers in India, who have been provided with specific codes.

“If any of the grape producers supply substandard stuff or with a high level of pesticide residue against approved norms, the importer or distributor with the help of bar code on the packet will immediately identify the source of origin and can ensure such items are not passed on to the consumers,” Tripathy told IANS in an interview.

“This mechanism involves monitoring pesticide residue, achieve product standardisation and facilitate tracing back from retail shelves to the grower. The traceability system speaks about various stages of sampling, testing, certification, and packing a product passed through,” said APEDA director S. Dave.

“In a competitive world market, quality management is a core requirement, without which tapping global market effectively becomes a difficult task. Quality holds the key to success in domestic and global market alike,” added Dave.

Will the traceability system help enhance exports?

“Such a system certainly goes a long way in expanding the market base for any product. It shows how much importance a country attaches to transparency in quality management and monitoring,” Dave said.

India’s export of fresh grapes crossed over Rs.301 million ($7.2 million) in 2006-07 against Rs.214 million in 2005-06.

Some of the key importers of Indian farm and processed food products like pomegranate, mango, onion and basmati rice are the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Bangladesh, Turkey, Kuwait, Sri Lanka, Italy, Germany, Australia, Jordan, Bahrain, and Malaysia.

“During 2007-12, APEDA intends to expand market base for mangoes, pomegranate, grapes, onions, ready-to-eat foods, cut flowers, poultry products, bovine meat and organic products in Japan, the US, China, Indonesia, Poland, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, the European Union, the Middle East and Switzerland,” Dave said.

According to the data with APEDA, India exported pomegranates worth Rs.790 million to over 30 countries in 2006-07. The largest chunk was exported to the UAE amounting to over Rs.243 million, followed by the Netherlands (Rs.160 million) and Britain (Rs.147 million).

India exported 79,060.88 million tonnes of fresh mangoes and 156,835.52 million tonnes of mango pulp in 2006-07. Major markets for Indian mangoes are the UAE, Japan, Europe, the Middle East, Canada, Germany and Hong Kong.

Onion and honey are other farm products being brought under the traceability system. Onion exports earned India Rs.11.63 billion in 2006-07, while natural honey worth Rs.600 million was exported during the same period to the US, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Britain, Belgium and Australia, among others.

“A number of quality control steps have enhanced the competitiveness of Indian farm and processed food products, and their exports have grown from Rs.6.47 billion in 1999-2000 to Rs.24.12 billion in 2006-07,” said Tripathy.