Farmers sowing Basmati rice in India have been facing big challenges after the recent European Union (EU) decision to bring down the maximum residue limits (MRL) for Tricyclazole in imported rice shipments. Tricyclazole is a fungicide sprayed on basmati paddy crops against leaf and neck blast disease in rice 3 to 4 times that could even be done after 90 days of transplantation, reported The Indian Express quoting a farmer. But following the EU decision, the All India Rice Exporters Association (AIREA) is asking the farmers not to spray it beyond 70-75 days after transplanting of the popular Pusa-1401 basmati paddy variety. In a series of workshops namely farmer awareness camps focusing on the EU decision, the organization is advising to reduce the MRL for the fungicide to 0.01 parts per million (ppm), much less against the existing tolerance level of one ppm. Thus, they need to spray Tricyclazole just once before the ‘boot leaf’ stage, while the developing panicle is still to emerge from the stem. However, the advice has put the farmers into a dilemma. If they go against the recommendation given, they will lose their market and if they follow the advice, they may lose their crop, said the report.
The EU alone imports 3.5 lakh tonnes (lt) basmati rice annually out of India’s total 40 lt exports, with much of it constituting Pusa-1401 and Pusa Basmati-1 rice, said the report quoting Vijay Setia, president of AIREA. According to him, the EU decision reducing the MRL for Tricyclazole to default levels can significantly affect country’s shipments and amounts to a non-tariff barrier. He further said that the government should take the matter up as so far there was no report of health-related issues because of the use of this fungicide. AK Gupta, director of the Basmati Export Development Foundation, a society under the Union Commerce Ministry’s Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority also told The Indian Express that Tricyclazole residues remain in the plant for 30-35 days. Therefore, if spraying is done at booting stage, the molecules will break down and there will hardly be any residues during maturity.
Meanwhile, a New Delhi-based institute, which has developed all the well-known Pusa basmati varieties, has been working on ‘breeding for disease-resistance’, as an alternative to spraying of pesticides.