Basmati exports may pick up as Saudi Arabia likely to ease residue rules
India’s basmati-rice exports are expected to pick up, as key importer Saudi Arabia is set to adopt easy residue parameters to take delivery of consignments. With India taking steps to reduce the deposit of harmful chemicals on rice, local authorities expect the European Union also step up imports from India.
India is the top exporter in the Rs 26,000-crore global basmati market. Shipments from the country to Saudi have taken a hit after Riyadh sought undertakings from exporters on minimum residue levels (MRL). Also, Saudi rejected a few consignments of Indian rice from a Singapore-based company. Since the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) has not defined MRLs, customs authorities rejected the consignments based on the stringent lowest limit of analytical determination criteria followed by the EU and the US.
The SFDA is now set to formulate its own, easier MRLs in the coming months, trade executives said. In fact, with India taking up the issue with the Saudi authorities, exports to that country have already improved, they added.
“The recent dialogue with authorities in Saudi Arabia has resulted in a positive outcome and exports have normalised to the country,” said AK Gupta, director of the Basmati Export Development Fund, an arm of the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority.
Indian delegations, comprising officials from the departments of commerce and agriculture, and the All India Rice Exporters Association, have visited Riyadh in recent weeks and held discussions with the SFDA.
Globally, too, rice exports have been hurt by various non-tariff barriers, mainly over MRLs. Shipments to Europe were hit last year after the EU set the maximum permissible residue level of tricyclazole (a fungicide) in basmati rice at 0.01 mg per kg from the earlier limit of 1.0 mg. Indian authorities have since been working with farmers to reduce the use of pesticides and other harmful have since been working with farmers to reduce the use of pesticides and other harmful chemicals on basmati.
Meanwhile, a three-member team of auditors from France and Switzerland visited Punjab on Wednesday. Local officials apprised the auditors of the measures taken by farmers to cut down the use of pesticides and insecticides in rice, and variations in the MRL guidelines in the global market that make those tough to follow.
“The matter over anomaly in MRLs set up by the European Union and those applicable in the US and Japan was raised with the auditors,” said Punjab food and drug administration commissioner KS Pannu, who is also the state’s agriculture secretary.The auditors admitted that the MRLs were stringent by default and said any relief would only come by next year, he told ET.
The auditors, who visited farms in Punjab, were also apprised of the regulatory framework for registering agro-chemicals in India and the ban on various pesticides and fungicides in the current year. To meet global residue rules, a comprehensive campaign to cut use of harmful chemicals has been conducted in the basmati belt, mainly in Punjab and Haryana. “Farmers have been provided with material including brochures, mobile messages and video clippings to impart precise methodology for seed treatment, sowing, transplantation and pre-harvest precautions to ensure judicious use of agro chemicals,” All India Rice Exporters Association executive director Rajen Sudershan said. Exporters now expect a major drop in residue levels this year.
By BOA Bureau