Basmati rice exporters cry foul over EU regulations on chemical residues


India's exports of the aromatic Basmati rice to the European Union might come to a halt due to new regulations on chemical residues, the All India Rice Exporters Association said on Wednesday.

The bone of contention is a fungicide named Tricyclazole developed by Dow Agri Sciences which farmers use to prevent leaf and neck blast in Basmati paddy varieties. While the European Union (EU) has so far allowed a maximum residue limit (MRL) of 1 ppm (parts per million), after 31 December 2017 it has mandated that imports having an MRL above 0.01 ppm will not be allowed.

"This will not only impact our businesses but also affect price realisation of about 1.5 million farmers growing Basmati in India," the association's president Vijay Setia said.

Currently, the US and Japan allow Basmati imports with residues of up to 3 ppm and 10 ppm, respectively. The fungicide Tricyclazole is commonly used by farmers in India to prevent blast in Basmati varieties like PB1 and Pusa 1410.

"While there is a problem that farmers do not judiciously use the chemical, changing practices requires as much as two years," Setia said, adding, "if the new rules are not withdrawn we will lose our business to Pakistan."

Basmati varieties grown in Pakistan do not require use of the fungicide and stand to gain from the de-facto ban on Indian exports.

India exports over 4 million tonnes of Basmati rice every year valued at over Rs22,000 crore. Exports to the EU currently are at 350,000 tonnes per year, valued at over Rs1,700 crore.

The rice exporters association has written to the Prime Minister to intervene and engaged with the commerce and agriculture ministries on the issue.

"Pakistan being the other Basmati rice exporter to the EU would gain all the business that India would lose... the effect of this virtual ban would thus be ruinous," the statement added.

According to a Press Trust of India report, an Indian government delegation is scheduled to visit Brussels in Belgium on 12 July to discuss the new regulations.


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