Impact of Nipah virus reports on social media has severely effected the export of vegetables and fruits to gulf countries as Holy Ramadan in Gulf countries is on, where fruits are an essential item for Iftar,” said C.Manoj of BVM Fruits, Kondotty, near Kozhikode who exports bananas, mangoes and pineapple through Karippur airport.
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Kerala ships around 150 tonnes of perishable commodities like vegetables and fruits on a daily basis to Gulf countries and to Europe. Of this, shipments from Cochin International Airport alone constitutes around 100 tonnes. However, the detection of Nipah virus and its subsequent panic following a misinformation campaign on social media forced many Gulf destinations to put import restrictions on the consignments from Kerala till further notice. Shipments from all three airports is coming to a halt.
The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) on Tuesday said the ban is based on information received and published on the World Health Organisation (WHO) website on the registration of the Nipah virus (NiV) outbreak in Kerala.
The preliminary information indicates that the main host of the disease is the fruit bat, where the virus is transmitted through secretions from the bat to the fruit that it feeds on or touches,” the ministry said.
“Mangoes, dates and bananas are the bat’s most preferred fruit. There have been cases of transmission of the disease among humans and between humans and animals as well.”The natural host of the virus is a fruit bat of the Pteropodidae family, according to the WHO.
Tonnes of fruits and vegetables that reached these countries on Saturday evening and early Sunday were rejected at the airports and had to be ferried back the State, exporters say.
Of the exports to the Gulf, 70% are fruits, including banana, plantain varieties such as njalipoovan and poovan and raw banana. As it is Ramzan period, fruits are in high demand in these countries.
As much as 95% of the perishables are procured from markets in Valiyoor, Kalakkad, Nagercoil, Tirunelveli, Kambam, and Theni. “They are exported with Certificate of Origin that the fruits and vegetables are grown and cultivated in India. We cannot change it to State-specific,” a city-based exporter said.