Nipah Virus: Ban on Indian fruit, veggies creates opportunities for Pakistan

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By Muhammad Luqman

Gulf States including Kuwait and United Arab Emirates have banned the import of fruit and vegetables from India after the outbreak of Nipah Virus in the Indian state of Kerala.

The Nipah virus responsible for encephalitis is caused by fruit bats. It has claimed 17 lives in the Southern Indian state of Kerala over the last one week while 2000 persons are under observation in the hospitals.

The virus was first identified during an outbreak in 1998 among farmers in Malaysia, where it killed over 100 people. Cases now appear almost annually in Bangladesh.

The current outbreak  began when people drew water from a bat-infested well, according to the India’s National Centre for Disease Control.

“Based on Federal Law No. 10 of 2015 on food safety and in order to take the necessary precautionary measures, the ministry has banned the imports of fresh vegetables and fruits from the  Indian state of Kerala”  a UAE official was quoted by Daily Khaleej Times.

The Gulf States’ ban on import of fruit and vegetable has created new opportunities for Pakistani horticultural exports to the Middle East.

“Exports of fruits and vegetables from Pakistan to Kuwait would double in volume now after the ban on imports from India owing to the outbreak of the Nipah virus,” says Waheed Ahmed, Vice President, Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FPCCI).

Kuwait has announced that it was implementing a ban on the imports of fruits and vegetables from India.

A committee at the Public Authority for Food and Nutrition — the Kuwaiti food safety and regulatory authority — cited Nipah virus outbreak in India’s Kerala as the reason behind the latest decision taken by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, according to Daily The News report.

Last week, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had also imposed a ban on fruits and vegetables from Kerala, the Indian state, due to the same Nipah virus outbreak.

The Nipah virus causing brain disease, encephalitis has so far killed over a dozen people in the southern Indian state of Kerala.

Fruit bats are the source of the virus. Fresh produce, including mangoes, dates, and bananas are the bats’ preferred fruits.

Indian health officials have been unable to trace the origin of the outbreak and have commenced a fresh round of tests on fruit bats from Perambra, the suspected epicenter of the infection.

There is no vaccine for the virus, which is spread through body fluids and can cause encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.

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