Does size matter? It certainly does if you are in the business of exporting bananas. Currently, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) standards stipulate that a banana has to be at least 14 cm long for exports.
But the good news is that traditional Indian banana varieties could soon find their way into European and US markets if the Centre manages to persuade the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to change its size requirements.
In September, APEDA (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority) will try to persuade the Codex committee of the FAO to change the standards so that smaller banana varieties can be exported.
The FAO is a UN agency that sets food safety and quality standards which are followed by global trade. In technical parlance, it is called Codex Alimentarius, which stands for a collection of standards, codes of practice, guidelines and other recommendations relating to food. In a telephonic interaction, APEDA Chairman, Devendra Kumar Singh, told BusinessLine the country has more than 200 varieties of banana. However, many cannot be exported due to FAO standards. The 14 cm requirement, he said, prevents smaller but nutritious varieties from being exported,
India accounts for about 30 per cent of global banana production but its share in exports is only about one per cent. In 2015-16, the country had exported about 70,000 tonnes of bananas.
Singh said that once these standards are changed it will open up the exports market. Currently, Indian companies largely export the G9 or Cavendish variety. Some traditional varieties from Kerala get exported to Gulf countries but not to EU and other geographies. Pankaj Khandelwal, Chairman and Managing Director of INI Farms, who has major interests in banana cultivation and exports, said that due to Codex standards, local exporters have to opt for the G9 variety. There is a need to negotiate with the Codex committees so that indigenous varieties, that are 7 or 8 cm long are also allowed to be exported.
These varieties, he said, are found in primarily in Assam, Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu