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.”