Coronavirus outbreak to hit India’s cumin, sesame, groundnut oil exports

With Chinese markets remaining closed amid the coronavirus outbreak, commodity exports of cumins, sesame seeds and groundnut oil, could take a 10-15 per cent hit over the next two months or so.

According to traders and exporters, China accounts for 20 per cent to 30 per cent of India’s export of some key commodities. Each of these could fall by 10-15 per cent if the current situation prevails.

Chinese markets typically remain closed in January for Chinese Lunar New Year holidays. This year, however, markets are yet to reopen amid precautionary measures in in view of the outbreak of coronavirus from Wuhan. With the Chinese administration choosing to prolong the market closure in a bid to control the outbreak, the export of various commodities from India has suffered.

Roughly, 150,000 tonnes of cumin seeds are exported every year, a third of which (50,000 tonnes) goes to China alone. Typically, 10 containers carrying 2,600 tonnes of produce are exported daily. There has been a standstill on due to the outbreak.

Similarly, the export of sesame seeds to China, which accounts of 20 per cent of total sesame exports, has also taken a hit. India’s total sesame seed exports tend to be around 250,000 tonnes annually. Of this, 20 per cent goes to China. If the situation prevails even for a month or two, this could come down by 10-15 per cent. 

The scenario, however, is not so grim for groundnut oil exports. Compared with Diwali of 2019, groundnut oil exports from Gujarat have in the first three months itself have already exceeded the total exports of last year, with China accounting for nearly 90 per cent. Even if the exports slow down now, it may pick up later during the year, traders feel. 

Meanwhile, even the prices of cotton, of which Gujarat is one of the leading producers, have taken a hit — down from Rs 41,000 per candy of 356 kg to Rs 39,000 — due to an uncertainty over new export orders.

Shekhar Ghosh is consulting editor, Indoasiancommodities.com. He has edited and written for publications like Business India, Business Standard, Business Today, Outlook and many other international publications. He can be reached at shekhar.ghosh@indoasiancommodities.in.

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