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Basmati exports to EU face fungicide blockade

Mar 02 2017

March 1, 2017 (by The Hindu)

NEW DELHI, MARCH 1: India’s basmati exports to the European Union (EU) could be significantly hit if the bloc implements a proposal to bring down the tolerance level for tricyclazole, a chemical used in India to treat rice.

New Delhi is trying to convince the EU not to go ahead with the “unnecessary” safety precaution, as it argues that it has been scientifically proved that present levels do not pose a threat to consumers, a government official said.

“The EU plans to bring down the MRL (Maximum Residue Limit) for tricyclazole to the default level of 0.01 ppm (parts per million), which could prove to be disastrous for Indian exports of basmati.

But it is supposed to happen only in 2018, so we have time to convince them not to implement the change,” the official told BusinessLine.

EU initiative
India is in talks separately with European countries, such as Italy and Portugal, which do not support the EU initiative of raising the tolerance limit to put pressure on the bloc not to go ahead with its plan, the official added.

The MRL for tricyclazole, a fungicide used by rice-growing countries to protect the crop from a disease called ‘blast’, is at present fixed at 1 ppm by the EU.

This level does not prove to be a problem for Indian exports at the moment, as levels detected in Indian basmati consignments are much lower.

Export of basmati
However, if the MRL is brought down to 0.01 ppm, as indicated by the EU, a large part of India’s $3 billion export of basmati to Europe could be affected.

Rice exporters from India are preparing for the worst by arranging for pre-testing of shipments, but are hopeful that the EU will change its mind, said Rajen Sundaresan from the All India Rice Exporters Association.

“I believe that the matter will be sorted out favourably, as it is not just Indian exports that are at stake.

Even rice growers in EU countries such as Italy and Spain use the fungicide,” said Sundaresan.

Dow Agro Sciences, the owner of the molecule used in the fungicide, has already submitted scientific and technical evidence to the US Environmental Protection Agency in 2011 supporting a tricyclazole tolerance level of 3.0 ppm in rice.

MRL limit
Following this, the MRL limit for the fungicide in the US was raised.

Japan, too, has an MRL level of 3.0 ppm for tricylozole.

Sundaresan said that once Dow carried out tests and submitted proof that the existing levels were not carcinogenic, the EU might relent.

The Commerce Ministry has taken up the issue with the India-EU joint working group on Sanitary & Phytosanitary and Technical Barriers to Trade and hopes to reach a settlement soon.

 

(This article was published on March 1, 2017)