Pandemic gives fillip to demand for cereals; 200 per cent increase in exports in July

The Asian Age.  | Sangeetha G

Business, Economy

Cereals have witnessed increased demand from African countries and the Gulf region during the lock-down.

Representational image.

Chennai: Cereals, other than wheat and rice, have seen a jump in demand in the overseas market due to the pandemic with their exports growing over 200 per cent in July.

In the month of July, exports of cereals like bajra, oats, corn, ragi, quinoa, yellow maize, sorghum and their seeds collectively grew 226 per cent to Rs 330 crore against Rs 101 crore in the same month last year. Between April and July, exports grew 32 per cent to Rs 673 crore against Rs 509 crore in the same period last year.

Among the cereals, certain varieties of popcorn fetched export revenues of Rs 190 crore in July against nil exports in July 2019. Yellow maize and another variety of maize too saw an emerging demand in the overseas market this July.

According to K Unnikrishnan, deputy director general, Federation of Indian Export Organisations, cereals have witnessed increased demand from African countries and the Gulf region during the lock-down.

“Many of the exporting nations had imposed restrictions on shipments to ensure food security during the lock-down. On the other hand, India had excess production and there were no restrictions on exports. This made countries in Africa and the Gulf region increasingly buy from India,” he said.

Further, the Gulf region was seen stocking up commodities fearing scarcity.

In case of maize, Vietnam, one of the largest producers, had a lower output and importing countries turned to India. Countries like Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka have been buyers of cereal seeds from India.

Apart from higher volumes, rise in the price of cereals also has helped higher export earnings. Except for basmati rice, most of the cereals have seen prices going up during the past few months.

Rice other than basmati saw exports surging 115 per cent to Rs 3050 crore in July. Demand for durum wheat too was robust.

However, this surge in demand is likely to be short-lived. “Probably we will see this demand for one or two months more till the situation normalises,” said Unnikrishnan. However, if exporters utilize this opportunity to build business overseas, India can become a leading exporter of cereals as well.