EU Sprinkles Non-tariff Barrier On Indian Chilli

Kochi, June 27: | Updated: Jun 28 2003, 05:30am hrs
The over $300-million Indian spices export industry is facing a fresh non-tariff barrier with the European Union (EU) attaching new phyto-sanitary conditions for the import of chilli and chilli products by its member countries. In a latest missive sent out to member countries, the EU has put a blanket ban on the import of hot chilli and chilli products unless the consignments are accompanied by a report certifying that they did not contain the colourant, Sudan Red 1.

The EUs latest directive is likely to hit the export of chilli and chilli products from India, which account for over 20 per cent of the total spices exports from the country (last fiscal, 83,000 tonnes of chilli and its products were exported earning Rs 301.6 crore).

This is because the industry does not posses the wherewithal to get such a certificate for all the consignments it ships to EU destinations. Further, it would also add to the cost of exports, making Indian chilli less competitive in the EU market.

Top sources in Spices Board said that the EU order dated June 20, a copy of which is available with FE, prohibits member states from importing hot chilli and hot chilli products unless an analytical report accompanying the consignment demonstrated that the product did not contain Sudan Red 1.

The competent authorities in the member countries should check that each of these consignment presented for imports is accompanied by the report. In the absence of such reports, the importers should have the product tested. Pending availability of the report, the product should be detained under official supervision, the order says.

EU earlier issued a red alert in May after French authorities found the presence of chemical dye, Sudan Red 1, a colourant used in textiles and considered illegal and carcinogenic, in some consignments sent from India. Following this, the Spices Board suspended the licence of three Mumbai-based exporters - Gautam Exports, Patons Exports and Volga Spice and Masala Mills - for exporting contaminated products.

Spices Board chairman Mr CJ Jose, when contacted, said the order was being circulated to all exporters. He admitted that there would be additional financial burden on the exporters to have the material tested and certified by competent authorities. While testing could be done, it was the certification part that would be difficult as the number of such agencies were limited, he said.

However, the export community views the latest development as a fresh bid by EU to raise phyto-sanitary conditions to curb Indian exports. They refer to an earlier EU ban on Indian seafood imports citing sanitary and phyto-sanitary reasons, which significantly hurt the billion-dollar industry.