With aromatic basmati rice from India kept out of the supermarkets in Germany for the last few months, following reports of the presence of high levels of pesticide residue, exporters are urging the government to hold discussion with the European Union for bringing in uniformity in the norms concerning the minimum residue limit (MRL).
?EU approval process for the presence of pesticide residue as to reset as precautionary principle approach sometimes result in ambiguity about MRL,? a leading exporter of basmati rice told FE on condition of anonimity.
In June, a Hamburg-based lab had issued reports to buyers suggesting that organic basmati rice imported from India has elevated levels (0.03%) of carbendazim and isoprothiolane (both plant protection products and PPP), after the European Commission fixed an arbitrary MRL of 0.01 ppm.
This has stalled the export of 20,000 tonne of organic basmati rice (worth $ 310 million) to Germany in last few months. However, a leading exporter confirmed that ?no consignment has been rejected by the EU?.
Exporters have been asking about the reasons about reduction of EC pesticide levels in the first place. They acknowledge that awareness about pesticide residue is low amongst the farmers.
With Europe and the Gulf countries, the key export markets for India’s basmati rice, putting in place stringent safety norms for ensuring that pesticide residue in agricultural crop remain below prescribed limits, aromatic rice exporters had recently urged the agriculture ministry to ensure that farmers use less pesticide.
In a letter to agriculture ministry, All India Rice Exporters’ Association president Vijay Setia had stated ?Some of the pesticide manufacturers are not giving correct and complete advice to farmers on proper use of chemicals. This is resulting in indiscriminate use of the products by the farmers.?
Even Iran had put a temporary halt on the import of basmati rice last year after few samples were alleged to have higher pesticide residue, which later was contested by rice exporters.
Iranian state-owned laboratory Standard Institute of Industrial Research had claimed that Indian rice contained arsenic, lead and cadmium and did not have nutrition value.
Iran had emerged as one of biggest export markets for Indian basmati in last two years with close to 40% of the country?s exports, totaling around 2.2 million tonne, being shipped to that country.
Basmati rice exports crossed 2 million tonne last fiscal largely because of bumper local harvest and strong demand from the Gulf countries, particularly for the newly classified PUSA 1121 variety. Iran and Saudi Arabia constitute more than 65% of the country?s total basmati rice exports.
According to the latest data compiled by Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (Apeda), exports of the premium aromatic rice has increased by an impressive 44% in comparison to 1.6 million tonne in 2008-09. In value terms, the export of basmati rice has crossed Rs 12,000 crore last fiscal against Rs 9,476 crore achieved during 2008-09.