Like Europe, other countries that import grapes from India, including China, Indonesia and Russia, have decided to issue stricter residue monitoring plan (RMP) norms to the country. India has been attempting to make inroads into new export markets such as China, Russia, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.However, these countries have now decided to come up with norms for Indian grapes which may affect the export prospects of India this season. The issue was discussed in a recent meet held at the National Research Centre for Grapes ( NRCG) in Pune that was attended by senior officials of APEDA, MSAMB and grape exporters, among others. NRCG director SD Sawant said that some of the norms are stricter than those set by the European Union. A couple of years ago, the EU had agreed to retain the residue levels of chlormequat chloride (CCL), a plant growth regulator, at 0.05 parts per million (ppm), for a period of two years. In August the same year, the EU had proposed to change the pesticide residue levels in grapes to 0.01 ppm, causing unrest among Indian exporters. The relaxation by the EU remains valid for the coming season as well.
According to All India Grape Exporters Association (AIGEA) president Gagandada Khapre, when the issue was discussed at the meet, grape exporters showed willingness to comply with the new norms and requested the government to get the tests conducted through Grapenet. But the government officials of APEDA said that the exporters would have to do it at their own risk, Khapre said. In 2010, Indian grape exports had faced a setback with the EU reluctant to accept Indian table grape consignments as chlormequat chloride was detected in excess of the prescribed maximum residue level (MRL). In 2009, the 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 had faced rejection. Indian grapes began to find favour after 2014 when 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 65,000-75,000 tonne. 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 the EU have until now been able to detect pesticides to the level of 0.05 ppm, and with advanced technology, can now detect up to 0.01 ppm.
Sawant said that since these countries have come up with the MRL norms, grape exporters have no option but to follow the new norms. An independent RML would have to be prepared for these nations, he said. Last season, India exported 27,554 tonne to Russia, which was one the biggest markets for the country. China imported some 1,123 tonnes of grapes last season, which was double of the previous season and Saudi Arabia imported 12,420 tonne compared with 8,140 tonne in 2015-16. India exported 481 tonne to Indonesia last season against 215 tonne the year before. Around 1.92 lakh tonne has been the peak of Indian grape exports. The country is likely to cross this mark this year due to good monsoons and good weather conditions in the growing regions. According to senior officials from the horticulture department, there is a huge demand for black grapes in China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Till date, exports to the Netherlands have been a maximum to the tune of 492 tonne, followed by Italy at some 32 lakh tonne.