Rice exporters seek PM's intervention to protect Basmati export to Europe
Worried over the European Union's decision to bring down the tolerance level for fungicide tricyclazole used by Basmati farmers to 'near-zero' levels, rice exporters have sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi's intervention in convincing the European Union to postpone the decision by two years.
"A virtual ban has been imposed by the EU on the widely used fungicide in India by reducing the import tolerance level a 100-fold from 1 ppm (parts per million) to 0.01 ppm. The move, which is to come into effect from January 1, 2018, will adversely impact the current kharif crop. We want the EU to give us at least two years more to settle the matter," said Vijay Setia, the president of All India Rice Exporters' Association (AIREA).
A delegation of officials led by the Commerce Ministry is visiting Brussels on July 12 to talk to counterparts in the EU asking for more time. Rice exporters believe that direct intervention by the PM could increase their chances of getting a sympathetic hearing.
Expressing the concerns of rice exporters that would affect farmers at large, Setia said that the EU has asked Dow Sciences to provide additional information on some safety parameters, which it can do only by early 2019.
If the EU is satisfied, it could let the existing tolerance level to continue, but it's a time taking process. Indian exports about 40 lakh tonne of Basmati and out of which 10 per cent, which stands at 3.50 lakh tonne, is exported to EU. "The rice exporters would not keep the stock meant for EU with them, they would export the lot to Pakistan and if it happens, it would be a loss to the country in terms of foreign currency, the rice exporters opined.
In its letter to the PM seeking intervention, AIREA has argued that a delay in implementing the move will not harm anybody as there is no scientific evidence of the harmful effects of this fungicide on human health.
In the US the tolerance level for the fungicide is 3 ppm, while in Japan it is 10 ppm. "We have been exporting rice to the EU for the last 20 years. We also consume it in the country and export it to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the US. There have been no health issues connected with the fungicide so far," said Brig JS Oberoi of LT Foods.
Tricyclazole is a fungicide developed by US-based Dow Agri Sciences used to combat a disease called blast affecting paddy crop. Under Indian agro-climatic conditions, it is the most farmer-friendly and cost effective solution to protect the rice crop from blast, the rice exporters observed.