Indian grape exporters can now heave a sigh of relief. The European Union (EU) has agreed to retain the residue levels of chlormequat chloride (CCL), a plant growth regulator at 0.05 ppm (papers per million ), for a period of two years. In August this year, EU had proposed to change the pesticide residue levels in grapes to 0.01 ppm causing unrest among Indian exporters.
According to Jagannath Khapre, president, All India Grape Exporters Association, both the exporters association and the Maharashtra State Grape Growers Association had followed up the issue with APEDA on a regular basis and APEDA took up the issue with the Union commerce ministry.
The commerce ministry took serious note of the issue and succeeded in convincing EU authorities to retain the CCL levels, Khapre said.
It may be recalled that top officials of the Maximum Residue Level (MRL) Committee had met in Pune, along with senior officials of the commerce department, APEDA at the National Research Centre for Grapes in August this year and then decided to approach the EU to file a say on behalf of Indian exporters.
Subhash Arve, president, Maharashtra Grape Growers Association, said that EU has agreed to retain the levels for a period of two years and the attempt from India would be to retain these CCL levels for a period of at least 5 years.
In 2010, Indian grape exports had faced a setback, with EU reluctant to accept Indian table grape consignments as chlormequat chloride — a plant growth regulator — was detected in excess of the prescribed maximum residue level (MRL).
In 2009, EU had come up with new regulations on pesticides, raising the chemicals to be monitored from 98 to 167. Unaware of the changed rules, Indian exporters who did not meet the new standards faced had rejection. Indian grapes began to find favour after 2014 when a 1.92 lakh tonne of grapes were exported by Indian traders to around 94 countries. Of this Europe and the UK together accounted for the largest share of 65,000 tonne-75,000 tonne.
According to Khapre, Indian exporters are seeking a five-year period from EU to ensure that the existing residue levels in the soil completely go down. CCL as a chemical is not hazardous and is used by grape farmers as a plant growth regulator, he explained.
The European Food Safety Authority has also prescribed 1.06 ppm as a safe level and the existing European regulations state that the residue levels should be around 0.05 ppm, he explained.The detection machines with EU until now have been able to detect pesticides to the level of 0.05 ppm and with advanced technology can now detect up to 0.01 ppm, he said.
Since the European Union goes by documentation, the Indian side submitted relevant documents before the authorities to seek a status quo on the existing levels, he said.