Indian exporters overjoyed at lifting of Saudi ban

The lifting of the ban is one of the major developments as far as the fruit and vegetable industries of Kerala are concerned, chamber of commerce member says. (Shutterstock)
Updated 07 June 2019
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Indian exporters overjoyed at lifting of Saudi ban

  • “I’m super happy with the development.”
  • Kerala exports 150-160 tons of fruits and vegetables to the Gulf countries every day

NEW DELHI: The Kerala Fruit and Vegetable Exporters Association has expressed joy over the Saudi decision to lift the ban on imports of horticultural products from the south Indian state.

The outbreak of the deadly Nipah virus in certain parts of Kerala in May last year forced the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to ban imports of horticultural products from the state. Most of the GCC members lifted the ban soon after, except for Saudi Arabia.

The Kingdom “is a major market for exporters in Kerala. We send our products to Riyadh, Dammam and Jeddah airports every day,” said P. E. Ashraf Ali of the association.

“I’d incurred huge losses due to the (Saudi) ban ... Now I hope to recover the loss,” Ali told Arab News. 

“I’m super happy with the development.”

He said he has been able to export 8-10 tons of horticultural products to Saudi Arabia since it resumed imports in late May.

Kerala exports 150-160 tons of fruits and vegetables to the Gulf countries every day, out of which around 40 tons go to Saudi Arabia, said V. Venugopal of the Kerala-based Cochin Chamber of Commerce and Industry. 

“The lifting of the ban is one of the major developments as far as the fruit and vegetable industries of Kerala are concerned,” Venugopal added.  

The target this year is to increase exports to GCC countries to 200 tons daily, and if that happens, exports to Saudi Arabia will go up by 15-20 percent, he said.

An official at the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority — a body of the Indian government — told Arab News: “The ban was lifted after the satisfaction of the health ministries in both India and Saudi Arabia that the Nipah virus had been contained and there was no danger either to humans or plants from this virus anymore.”

The official said: “My understanding is that the Indian Health Ministry gave assurances to its Saudi counterpart that it will take fool-proof measures to stop the virus, and then the World Health Organization was also involved.”

He added: “It’s only after everyone was satisfied that there’s no danger from the Nipah virus anymore that Saudi Arabia agreed to lift the ban.”


Dharavi slum beats Taj Mahal as India’s top tourist destination

Updated 25 June 2019
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Dharavi slum beats Taj Mahal as India’s top tourist destination

  • The squalid district was featured in Oscar-winning movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire’
  • Tour groups to Dharavi normally consist of around five to six people, with visitors guided through its cramped alleys

NEW DELHI: One of the world’s biggest slums, located in Mumbai, has pipped the famous Taj Mahal to become India’s favorite tourist destination.

Dharavi, where close to 1 million people live in an area of just over 2.1 square kilometers, was named by travel website TripAdvisor.com as the 2019 top visitor experience in India and among the 10 most favorite tourist sites in Asia.

The slum has grown up on swamp land in the center of the coastal city of Mumbai over the past 150 years and has poor infrastructure and a lack of basic sanitation and hygiene facilities.

The squalid district was featured in the 2008 Oscar-winning movie “Slumdog Millionaire,” which tells the story of a Mumbai teenager accused of cheating on the Indian version of TV gameshow “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.”

However, in 2012, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Katherine Boo portrayed a new side of life in the slum in her book “Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Slum,” which showed it bubbling with hope in a changing world.

The recent Bollywood movie “Gully Boy” also gives the slum a new look with a coming-of-age tale based on the lives of street rappers.

“Slum tourism started in 2003 for the first time but it picked up after the movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’” said Dinesh Bhurara, who runs travel agency Mumbai Dream Tours.

“Dharavi is not like a slum, but it is a city within the city. It is well-organized and people from all communities and religions coexist together. They work very hard. When tourists come, they see a new life in the slum which they don’t see in Mumbai and outside. This connects with foreigners,” Bhurara told Arab News.

Bhurara, 24, was born and brought up in Dharavi and started his travel business three years ago after gaining experience with other tour operators.

“People have lots of misconceptions about Dharavi. Movies like ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ stereotyped the slum by showing its poverty, underbelly and by typecasting characters. But it’s not like that. When tourists visit it’s an eye-opener for them,” he added.

Tour groups to Dharavi normally consist of around five to six people, with visitors guided through its cramped alleys, and shown around houses and businesses.

“For tourists this is an educational tour. They learn how business is done here, and how people survive with their sheer efforts and aspirations. They also go to business and industry areas,” said Bhurara.

The peak season to visit Dharavi is between November and May with travel agents recording an average of 200 foreigners touring the slum every day during the season.

Bhurara charges 700 rupees ($10) per person for a four-hour trip to Dharavi and has five partners who run the tours with him. “When we take tourists inside the slum, we not only take them into an area, but we also take them into our lives and show them how life can exist even in this space. Many get inspired and are awestruck by the sheer energy inside the slum.”

He said the tourist influx had encouraged many Dharavi youngsters to learn foreign languages as a way to earn a living and he himself had taken up Spanish.

According to Bhurara the majority of tourists are from Europe and China. “People in Dharavi are now attuned to foreigners visiting them and they really appreciate that. For youngsters it’s an extra opportunity to earn some more. So many college students pick up foreign languages to earn something extra,” he added.

Dharavi is a hub of small industries with exports of leather and recycled goods reportedly worth $1 billion a year. More than 4,000 businesses operate there alongside thousands of single-room factories where migrants workers from eastern and western India are employed.

“Many people, even in Mumbai, are not aware of this part of Dharavi,” Vinay Rawat, a tour operator, told Arab News. “In Mumbai people come to see the most expensive house of the industrialist Mukesh Ambani and they also want to see the cheapest place in Mumbai which is Dharavi.”

Rawat added that wealthy people lived in Dharavi where new high-rise buildings had been constructed. He said people had lived there for four generations but that there were fears that the prime land could fall into the hands of property developers.