After years of having to export its geographical indication (GI) tagged ‘kesar’ mangoes to the US via Maharashtra, Gujarat will be able to finally do so from its shores.
The state has finally bagged approval from the United States Department of Agriculture-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (USDA-APHIS) for an irradiation facility in Ahmedabad.
What is more, the irradiation facility – Gujarat Agro Radiation Processing Facility (GARPF) – set up by Gujarat Agro Industries Corporation Ltd (GAIC) is the largest among the four in the country in terms of capacity and range of products.
Unlike most countries, the US mandates exports of mangoes and other food products to undergo irradiation, a process that disinfects multiple types of flies including Diptera (flies) or Tephritidae (fruit flies).
“Not only does it disinfest but also enhances shelf life of fruits and vegetables like mangoes by at least 25-30 days. While Gujarat had bagged GI tag for its indigenous kesar mangoes, the exports to the US were recorded from Maharashtra. But now Gujarat will be able to export directly to the US with the facility getting approved by USDA-APHIS,” said D K Parekh, managing director of GAIC.
According to Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) data, India’s mango exports to the US stood at 1095.42 tonnes valued at Rs 30.56 crore which fell to mere 1.45 tonnes worth Rs 1.09 lakh before climbing to Rs 16.51 tonnes at Rs 12.77 lakhs in 2021-22.
On the other hand, Maharashtra had exported roughly 980 tonnes of irradiated mangoes to the US in 2019-20, of which an estimated 50-60 per cent were from Gujarat due to non-availability of USDA-APHIS approved irradiation plant in the state.
“But due to lack of a USDA-APHIS approved irradiation facility in the state, all kesar mango exports from Gujarat to the US went through Maharashtra. Now with this facility getting approved by USDA-APHIS, Gujarat will begin to record these export revenues for the state from 2022-23,” a state government’s horticulture department official stated.
Moreover, at 1 million curie the facility, operated and maintained by Agrosurg Irradiators Pvt Ltd, is the largest in terms of capacity in the country. Until now, India had three USDA-APHIS approved irradiation facilities, one each in Mumbai, Lasalgaon and Bengaluru.
What also sets apart GARPF from the other three facilities in the country is the range of products.
Implemented under the guidance and technical support of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), and the Board of Radiation and Isotope Technology (BRIT), GARPF is the only facility in India that can irradiate products like onion, potato, cereals, pulses, psyllium husk, pet food, meat, spices, dehydrated onions, dry vegetables, meat products including poultry, eggs, and medical products at a low, medium and high dose as per the requirement.
“The irradiation facility in Gujarat has the capacity to disinfest the widest range of products including pulses, spices, medical devices, fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh onions, and dehydrated onions, among others. The radiation dose required for each of these products is different, ranging from 40 Grays (Gy) to 25000 Gy. As a result, not just mangoes from other states like UP which so far used to be irradiated at Mumbai can now be done in Gujarat, but also a range of these products from Gujarat and other states,” said Pranav Parekh, executive director of Agrosurg Irradiators Pvt. Ltd.
While it has bagged the USDA-APHIS approval recently, the facility was set up by GAIC as a multipurpose split type, palletised radiation processing facility for agricultural and processed food products in Ahmedabad under Rashtriya Krushi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) for a project cost of Rs 20 crore in 2014.
Going forward, having bagged approval from the US, GARPF is now planning to apply for a similar approval with the Australian authorities since the country too mandates irradiation of mangoes and other exported products.