India’s export of premium quality rice to the EU has been declining since 2017 when the region tightened pesticide residue norms for rice. The industry is now worried that with similar stringent norms being adopted in the Middle East without giving Indian farmers time to bring changes in their use of pesticides, the country’s nearly Rs 30,000-crore Basmati rice exports business will take a big hit. The Middle East accounts for 80% of this business.
According to All India Rice Exporters’ Association (AIREA), India exported Rs 29,859 crore worth of Basmati rice in 2020-21, of which the western Asian nations accounted for Rs 22,849 crore.
Basmati exports to the EU have declined from 397,000 tonnes in 2017-18 to 241,000 tonnes in 2019-20. Basmati exports to the EU, a more remunerative market, have been declining over the past few years due to stringent norms of maximum residue levels (MRLs) for pesticides.
“Countries in the Middle East are now adopting EU-at-par norms of pesticide residues and our Basmati rice is facing the brunt of such norms,” said Vinod Kaul, executive director of AIREA. “Industry has been struggling with adhering to the norms being adopted by countries like Oman, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, etc.”
Trade sources told ET that Dubai Municipality has initiated testing of Basmati rice picked up from store shelves for the presence of thiamethoxam and tricyclazole. “This is even though there has not been any prior intimation of any regulation governing MRLs of pesticides in Dubai,” said AIREA in a letter to the government. “The trade is seriously apprehensive of the future of Basmati rice export upon which the livelihood of hundreds of exporters and scores of thousands of farmers across the seven Basmati growing states hinges.”
Kaul of AIREA said, “The situation gets compounded by the fact that although the EU has a harmonised system of pesticide residues, Middle Eastern countries do not have a uniform system. They have a mix of GSO standards, Codex standards and EU standards, which has been causing serious complications in adherence to such varying norms.”
The industry has demanded that pesticide manufacturing companies willing to register their molecule in India should first be asked to produce documentary evidence of the registration of such molecules in the EU and the US, as the major pesticide manufacturers are from these two regions.
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