Farm exports record 9.8% growth during pandemic despite overall slump

Surge in global commodity prices and regular monsoon and an extended winter are being attributed to the rise in export figures for farm produce

Representative photo: iStock

Farm exports in India saw a surprising growth of 9.8 per cent in 2020, even though the overall merchandise exports fell by 15.5 per cent due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The rise in agricultural exports is being attributed to a surge in global commodity prices as well as favourable weather conditions.

Indian Express, quoting Commerce Ministry data said while the country’s overall export between April and December 2020 stood at $201.30 billion, a slump by $36.97 billion than the previous fiscal, export of farm commodities rose from $26.34 billion in 2019 to $28.91 billion in April-December 2020.

According to the report, while imports have contracted by 5.5  per cent, the agricultural trade surplus has increased from $9.57 billion in April-December 2019 to $13.07 billion in April-December 2020.

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As many countries opened up their economies post May, demand was normalized and supply chains were restored. This in turn made export of several farm produce from India, like sugar, cotton, oil seeds, non-basmati rice, wheat and maize, competitive in the world market.

The rise is food prices is substantiated by the recently-released Food Price Index (FPI) for January 2021 by the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organisation. At 133.3 points, it is the highest since 116.4 recorded in July 2014.

While good rains, bumper crops and an extended winter contributed to the agricultural production in India this fiscal, dry weather conditions which affected agriculture in major producing countries like Brazil, Argentina, Ukraine, Thailand and Vietnam, gave an indirect boost to India’s farm exports, the report said.

Strategical stockpiling by China, especially the import of maize, wheat, soyabean, barley, sugar and milk products, has also raised the global prices.

India recorded surplus rainfall and timely onset of rainfall in 2019 and 2020, helping in timely harvest of rabi crop in April-June. An extended winter and replenished groundwater will further help farmers achieve high production of crops such as wheat, mustard, chickpeas and lentils, boosting their export in turn.

Farm exports had seen a phenomenal rise when the UPA was in power. While it had shot from $7.53 billion in 2003-04 to $43.25 billion in 2013-14, the figure fell to $ 32.81 billion in 2015-16 soon after the NDA government took reins of the country.

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