Updated: April 16, 2021 1:16:49 pm
Even as the pandemic hit economics activities hard, the global lockdowns triggered by Covid last year came as a blessing in disguise for the Punjab State Cooperative Supply & Marketing Federation Limited (Markfed), setting its cash registers ringing with an unprecedented rise in export of its products which included atta (flour), ready to eat products including flagship ‘sarson ka saag’, edible oils and wellness products like amla candies.
Official data compiled by Markfed shows that in Covid year (2020-21), it exported 108 containers to various countries, almost double of the 58 containers it exported four years ago, in 2017-18.
Markfed Managing Director Varun Roojam attributed the massive jump in exports to lockdowns last year due to Covid, which had people stock up on supplies in quantities higher than their normal consumption. For instance, Roojam said, against a normal purchase of 15 kg of flour in foreign countries, people would start storing 50 kg flour, and similarly other products.
“This created a lot of demand, especially when the eateries were closed during the lockdown and people started buying ready to eat products in large quantity,” Roojam said, adding that there were initial hiccups when the transportation took a hit due to lockdown last year, but once the restrictions were eased, the export of Markfed products registered a sharp increase.
“There was a lot of demand from countries like US, UK and Australia,” said Roojam.
Buoyed by the demand, Markfed has in last six months, carried out an exercise to tap potential in more European countries like Germany and France. Already, it has been exporting it products under the brand name of ‘Sohna’ to United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Middle East, New Zealand, Singapore, Italy, Greece and Phillipines.
While ‘sarson ka saag’ has been Markfed’s flagship product available in cans of 450 gm, 850 gm and retort pouches of 300 gm, Roojam said demand for other products such as murabba of amla and carrot also registered a significant growth during the pandemic last year.
Roojam said he hoped that Markfed exports in the current fiscal would see further jump.
Among the ready to eat canned vegetable packs exported by Markfed are dal makhni, kari pakora, black channa, rajmah, alu methi, mattar paneer, chatpata channa, palak paneer, alu palak and spinach puree etc. The other products include pickles (mango, green chilli, lemon, mixed) amla candies, tomato ketchup, jam, gulab sharbat, atta, salt, juices, spices, pulses, tea, gur (jaggery), shakkar (powdered jaggery) and basmati rice.
The Markfed products have a shelf life ranging between a year and half to two years, said Roojam.
To fulfil the orders in a time-bound manner while assuring international quality standards, Markfed set up automatic lines for filling edible oils and for washing cans at its plants in Khanna and Admapur Road Jalandhar, respectively.
Markfed plants, Roojam said, were certified by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agencies of several countries and its plant Markfed Canneries Jalandhar had been certified by various national and international bodies such as Export Inspection Agency, FSSAI, BRC, USFDA for manufacturing, quality and export of its products to various parts of the world.
Roojam said raw material for Markfed was sourced locally, giving a push to the agri-economy of the state. For example, he said, Markfed was procuring sarson for ready to eat saag through contract farming on more than 350 acres near its plant in Jalandhar.
Roojam said among other products, there was a huge demand for honey from foreign countries and beginning this fiscal Markfed would start the honey export. Already, it has been supplying honey in the domestic market.
Markfed launched Sohna whole wheat atta in a new design in February 2020 and exported 230 metric tonnes of it in 2020-21.
Each container, depending upon the export products, costs between Rs 25 to Rs 30 lakh and in 2020-21 fiscal, Markfed exported products worth over Rs 20 crore.
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