UAE lifts ban on imports of fresh produce from Kerala

Dubai: The UAE has lifted the ban on imports of fruits and vegetables from the Indian state of Kerala that has declared itself free of the recent Nipah virus attack. The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) announced lifting the ban through its social media channels on Wednesday evening. “#MoCCAE lifted import ban of all kinds of fruits & vegetables from previously infected city of #Kerala in #India. Shipments of vegetables & fruits from Kerala to #UAE should be attached with a certificate confirming it’s free from virus infection as an additional document,” the ministry tweeted. The ministry had imposed the ban on May 29 after the south Indian state reported the outbreak of the deadly brain-damaging disease. The natural host of the virus is a fruit bat of the Pteropodidae family, according to the World Health Organisation. Though preliminary tests could not confirm bats as the source of the Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala, the Indian Council of Medical Research this week said latest reports identified fruit bats as the source of the outbreak in Kerala as well. However, the state has already declared two of its districts, where Nipah had killed 17 people in May, free of the virus since there was no death or fresh case of infection for over a month. Moreover, scientists at the India’s National Institute of Virology (NIV) said Nipah virus did not spread through fruits. “Viruses are obligatory parasites. They cannot multiply in fruits. Like any other virus, Nipah virus needs animal or human cells to survive and multiply,” National Institute of Virology (NIV) director and senior scientist Devendra Mourya was quoted as saying in a Times of India report. The NIV scientists also urged people not to shy away from eating fruits because they did not provide the virus with the mechanism to survive and spread. The link to fruit bats, however, cost dear to the country’s fruit exports dipping following the ban in Gulf countries. In the UAE alone, the import of an estimated 100 tonnes of fruits and vegetables sent daily via airports in Kerala was affected. As Gulf News first reported, the ban also impacted the imports of fruits and vegetables from Kerala’s neighbouring states Tamil Nadu and Karnataka which previously used the airports in Kerala to export most of their fresh produce to the Gulf countries. Though retailers had earlier ruled out the ban causing shortages in the UAE market as they had started importing fresh produce from other Indian states and different countries, certain items like varieties of bananas and some vegetables typically imported from Kerala were in shortage, they said on Wednesday. This had also caused a slight hike in prices of those items, they added.

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