Basmati rice exports to Iran, the biggest destination for the aromatic and long-grained rice from the country, are likely to commence from the next fiscal following assurance from the Iranian authorities. Tehran has not approved any new contract for import of Basmati rice from India since October 2014.
Official sources told FE the Iranian authorities have stated that last fiscal, excess Basmati rice imports had forced Tehran to suspend fresh orders for import of rice into the country.
A commerce ministry official said the Iran authorities informed an Indian delegation which visited Tehran earlier this month that last fiscal’s Basmati imports of 1.4 million tonne (mt) from India were in ‘excess’, thus the carry forward stock was ‘high’ in the current fiscal.
“Iranian authorities told us the country needs about 9 lakh tonne of rice annually from India for meeting domestic demand and they will soon start giving approval to new contracts for rice import,” the official said.
Of total exports of 3.7 mt of Basmati from the country in 2013-14, 1.4 mt was shipped to Iran. Sources said the shipment to Iran would fall to around 9 lakh tonne in the current fiscal. Iran’s annual consumption of rice is estimated at around 3 mt. Around 2 mt is produced in the country while the rest is imported from India.
Iran and India have also agreed to have referral labs in India for testing rice consignments rejected by Tehran because of presence of pesticide residue. “Henceforth, in case of disputes on pesticide residue levels, the report of these labs would be final,” an official said.
Sources said the Iranian authorities have been asking India’s exporters since January 2014 to furnish documents on good agricultural practices, ISO 22000, which deal with food safety management and packaging protocols, besides “non-genetically modified crop” certification.
Rice shipments to Iran got a boost when India launched a rupee settlement mechanism from April 2012 with Iran to avoid sanctions from the US and EU. As part of the initiative, state-owned UCO Bank has tied up with Iranian lenders — Parsian, Pasargad, Saman and EN Banks — for settlements of dues.
Recently, a 20-member delegation of commerce ministry officials and trade representatives visited Iran to discuss issues concerning Basmati and explore the possibility of increasing buffalo meat and soyameal exports.