Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Thursday, Jan 02, 2003
Industry & Economy
Consultants to help boost food exports
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, Jan. 1
THE Kerala Government has roped in the services of professional consultants to provide the roadmap for aggressively promoting food-based products in both the national and overseas markets over a period of the next three to five years.
Speaking to Business Line, Mr Ajay Kumar, Secretary (Industries), said that this was in line with the new-found status that food products enjoy in the developmental agenda that the State Government is charting out for itself.
While the Royal Cebeco group of Holland will help the State Government identify partners and provide technological inputs and necessary guidance for the industry, a leading Indian advertising agency has been mandated with the task of developing a brand for food products originating from the State.
The contract for brand promotion will hold good for a period of one year to begin with, and is liable to be extended after review.
The aim is to recapture the glory of the past and sustain the dominance the State has traditionally enjoyed in the export of food products.
In recent times, it has been forced to yield its place to rival players from within the country and outside.
Kerala has traditionally been an exporter of spices, tea, coffee, rubber and other plantation products.
But it is only now that fruits and vegetables are being added to the basket.
Till now, food products have been merely among the main export products that the State has taken care to promote but the focus is now on showcasing the sector as the one with the best scope for the State.
Diversification into fruits and vegetables is expected to give a much-needed edge to the export drive in view of the fact that stiff competition from countries such as Brazil, Vietnam and Colombia and Indonesia have blunted the State's traditional advantage in exports.
Kerala's claim to exporting excellence is further buttressed by the fact that food products account for two-thirds of its export basket.
Additionally, the State contributes to 10-15 per cent of the national food export products exports despite having just one per cent of the land area for itself.
"Considering the huge domestic market as well as a growing export demand, we are now in the process of evolving a strategy for promoting food products," Mr Ajay Kumar said.
"We have been talking to many people, organisations and experts prior to finalising our strategy."
A different approach is being tested in that the promotional strategy will seek to link the enviable physical quality of life index the State is universally known for with its clean and rich food habits.
The good health parameters, longevity, low infant mortality rates and other indices are sought to be endorsed as emanating from the association with brand Kerala.
"We are currently busy perfecting a proper messaging system for positioning and branding of our food items. We are also developing niche products," Mr Kumar said."A strategic, product-specific intervention is being planned for developing the various food brands over the next 3-5 years."
Efforts are on to fill up the infrastructural gaps for developing the State as a supply base for fruits and vegetables exports to the Gulf region known for its huge expatriate population.
The Government is prepared to go the distance and outsource, if need be, the supply requirements from other States if only to retain the supply base.
But, according to Mr Kumar, the State Government is also acutely aware of the fact that it would have to get its logistical basics right, for which outside agencies are being consulted.
Currently, 60-70 tonnes of fruits and vegetables cargo are flown to the Gulf destinations on a daily basis.
The incidental costs can be brought down to a sixth if the consignment can be shipped through sea.The aim is to raise exports to a level where regular shiploads can leave the nearest port straight to a Gulf destination.
But, again, this will require logistical support in the form of carriages that offer controlled conditions for ferrying in he perishables from production area to the port premises. This is being looked into, according to Mr Ajay Kumar.
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