MADURAI: Tamil Nadu is set to generate Rs 50,000 crore income in five years, with Theni, Madurai, Dindigul, Thoothukudi, Ariyalur, Tiruppur and Karur being declared as 'Moringa Export Zones' during Tamil Nadu's first exclusive Agriculture budget, opined experts.
Presenting the budget, Minister for Agriculture MRK Panneerselvam said, "Among the various agricultural commodities produced in Tamil Nadu, moringa (drumstick) and its value-added products have huge export potential in various countries due to its high nutritional benefits."
Considering the export potential of moringa varieties cultivated in Tamil Nadu, the major moringa-growing districts namely Madurai, Theni, Dindigul, Thoothukudi, Ariyalur, Tiruppur would be declared as 'Moringa Export Zone', he stated.
"To increase the opportunities for Moringa export, a 'Special Export Facilitation Center' will be established at Madurai at an initial cost of Rs 1 crore. Through this centre, the details of moringa farmers, exporters and traders in the importing countries will be collected and export market linkage will be strengthened.
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The Facilitation Centre will also provide exporters with the details on country-specific quality standards, requirements and regulations required for moringa exporters and schemes implemented by Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA). The centre will be equipped with machinery for value-addition (processing and packaging) such as dryers, pulverisers and automatic packing machines will be provided to facilitate production of value-added products," the Minister announced.
A bureaucrat-turned-moringa farmer/exporter M Natchimuthu (55), hailed the announcement terming it as "a perfectly timed move". "By declaring moringa export zones, the state is set to generate '50,000 crore income through foreign exchange in five years," asserted Natchimuthu,who is engaged in moringa farming and export for over four years. It can be achieved by increasing the moringa cultivativation in Tamil Nadu from 30,000 acres to 50,000 acres of land.
In a hand-holding gesture for moringa farmers, the move will help form a framework on guidelines and strategies to be adopted for cultivation, value addition, and marketing techniques to meet the export standards. As a step towards capacity-building, moringa clusters could be formed in the export zones, with each cluster specialising in one value-added moringa product,the move would form a framework on guidelines and strategies to be adopted for cultivation, value addition, and marketing techniques to meet the export standards. he added.
With an airport present at Madurai, the special facilitation centre would pave way for more economic activities in the district, turning it into an international business-to-business hub for moringa, said Natchimuthu.
The president of Agrofood Chamber of Commerce and Industry S Rethinavelu said, "The cash crop can be made into more than 30 value-added products. Local farmers are unaware of worldwide demand for moringa. Setting up export zones would educate them about the presence of an international market for their produce. As the state has also announced about encouraging students to take up agricultural entrepreneurship, moringa export business would serve as a feasible and more profitable option for the educated youth, who could easily become successful agricultural entrepreneurs."
Natchimuthu shared, "Tamil Nadu accounts for 24% of world moringa production, widely cultivated in Theni, Dindigul and Tiruppur districts and the state is home to six out of the 13 popular moringa varieties in the world. The indigenous variety of moringa cultivated in Tamil Nadu -- Periyakulam 1 (PKM 1) -- is the most sought after variety across the globe, due to its adaptability to any climatic condition and high nutrient value. The moringa variety was developed by the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University nearly two decades ago. While all parts of a moringa tree are edible and have niche export markets, moringa leaves and its value-added products are in high demand."
He also pointed out that the demand for moringa products witnessed a boom after it was declared as a 'superfood' in the United States of America nearly 20 years ago.
Moringa has been scientifically proven to possess therapeutic properties against diabetes, ulcer, fibrosis, Polycystic Ovarian Disease, cosmetic properties such as anti-aging. Besides, moringa, which has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, brings about weight loss and enhances men's sexual health.
"Moringa and its value-added products have a huge market in North America, Europe, Gulf Countries and in China. There is an emerging market for moringa-based animal feed in Australia due to its medicinal properties," explained Natchimuthu.
He went on to state that there are four segments in moringa business namely ready-to-cook (moringa powder, moringa tea), ready-to-eat (moringa chocolates, cakes, juices, lattes), nutraceuticals (moringa capsules, tablets) and animal feed. While moringa latte, tea and moringa capsules have huge demand in North America for its weight loss properties, recipes made using moringa oil and seeds are very popular among Chinese men as an aphrodisiac, the exporter mentioned.