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Covid impact: India’s spices export to Bangladesh by rail gets a boost

Increasing shipments of spices by rail to Bangladesh in the past one month has given a fillip to exports from the country, hampered by logistics constraints due to Covid-19.

The initiative by the Railways has opened a new platform for the export of spices consignments to the neighbouring country of Bangaldesh, facilitating easier, faster and safer dispatch of bulk quantities at a significant cost reduction of 60 per cent compared to roadways. This is expected to benefit the small and medium players in the industry, said Spices Board officials.

“The Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdown presented a new dimension to the export of spices from the country. Globally, there has been an increased demand for spices with immunity-boosting properties and we could cater to it despite the limitations faced in freight movement. Proactive and cost-effective measures for transportation like exporting to Bangladesh by rail benefited farmers and exporters alike,” said D Sathian, Secretary, Spices Board.

From June to November this year, 8,964 tonnes of turmeric have been exported by rail to Bangladesh from the Andhra Pradesh-Telengana belt, in addition to other spices such as chilli (4,300 tonnes), cumin (100 tonnes) etc.

Sathian said that with support from the South Central Railways, the first train moved around 1,900 tonnes of turmeric from Nizamabad to Benapole in Bangladesh in June, via Ranaghat in West Bengal. Following suit, other spices such were also sent by rail.

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Bangladesh is one of the leading export destinations for Indian spices, and holds a share of around 9 per cent in volume and 5 per cent in value of the country’s total spice exports — which crossed $3 billion in 2019-20. During the period, around 1,38,903 tonnes of spices valued at ₹1,249 crore were exported to Bangladesh and the major items exported are cumin, chilli, ginger, turmeric etc.

Further opening up of the rail mode of export, amongst others, has helped boost the overall spice exports to Bangladesh, which crossed a volume of 99,301 tonnes during April-August valued at ₹975 crore, registering a remarkable increase of 181 per cent in quantity terms over the corresponding period of the previous year.

Earlier over 95 per cent of India’s spice exports to Bangladesh was routed through the ports of Ghojadanga, Mundra, Hili, Mohadipur, Petrapole, Nhava Sheva or by road in small quantities. The unforeseen challenges posed by Covid have paved the way for novel means to sustain supply links of spices despite logistic impediments, the Board officials said.

The Board convened an online interaction of the spices exporters with the officials of the South Central & Southern Railway zones, to explain the operational modalities as well as to encourage the exporters in utilising the opportunity to the fullest. The exporters have shown keen interest to switch over to rail as the preferred mode for transport, considering the potential advantage of uninterrupted movement of consignments, amidst the Covid constraints.

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