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Indian exporters expect vegetable export demand to fall 15-20%


New Delhi: Indian vegetable exporters expect demand from the UK, a major buyer and a hub for the European market, to fall 15-20% because of lockdowns in that country, industry executives said. “There is also a likelihood of airfreight rates to be increased by airlines in the short run,” said Sunil Awari, general manager at Bengaluru-based Namdhari Farm Fresh. There is also a risk of losing business if any UK buyer declines delivery of committed orders, he added.

India exports 70-100 tonnes of vegetables to the UK a week, which go up by 15% for Christmas and the New Year, exporters said. With restaurants and hotels closed due to the lockdown, volumes would fall, said Babu Lal Barai, proprietor of Khushi International, which exports fresh fruits and vegetables from Mumbai. “Looking at the past situations, we are assuming that the airlines will increase freight rates by 10-15% and take advantage of the situation,” Barai said.

The current average airfreight tariff is Rs 200 a kg, compared with Rs 80 before the pandemic. Unlike the uncertainty during the lockdown in April and May, airlines seem to be better prepared and geared up for travel bans now, Kay Bee Exports chief executive Kaushal Khakhar said. When no passenger movement is allowed by the aviation regulator, the same aircraft can be used for transporting essential products, he said.

It has been a difficult year for exporters as countries like Italy, France and Germany have also gone for a second round of lockdown, said Ekram Husain, vice president, Vafa Fresh Vegetables & Fruits Exporters Association. “With a large growing Asian population, there is a huge demand for Indian vegetables. We just hope the lockdown is not extended, else it will impact the overall exports from the country. Exporters are also now looking at ship routes to send cargo to save on transportation cost,” he said.

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