Basmati exporters seek check on use of pesticides in crop amid tougher norms by foreign buyers
With Saudi Arabia insisting on tightening the norms on minimum residue level of pesticides and insecticides in the aromatic basmati imported from India on a par with European Union (EU) standards, the exporters of the premium rice have sought stringent check on the use of agro-chemicals in the crop.
The Saudi Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) has decided to follow tougher quality check of the premium rice from India as it wants fungicide levels not more than 0.01 mg against 1 kilogram, it is learnt. The Gulf country imports the bulk of basmati rice from India.
In a communiqué to the Union ministries of agriculture and commerce besides Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), the exporters of basmati have demanded regulations on the sale of pesticides and licences to manufacturing companies.
‘Pesticide makers fleecing farmers’
Ashok Sethi, director, Basmati Exporters’ Association, said in the communiqué, “The manufacturing companies sell pesticide to the gullible farmers without any authorisation by the agriculture development or agriculture universities. There is no regulation on the pesticides companies.”
“Moreover, the supply of spurious pesticides through unscrupulous traders has resulted in wrong and excessive use. The state governments ban pesticides from time to time, but they can’t do much as the power vests with the Insecticides Board of India under the Union ministry of agriculture. The pesticide companies also approach the courts to get relief,” Sethi pointed out.
The government should ban the pesticides not matching the international standards, the association suggested.
APEDA general manager (cereals) SS Nayyar said they are concerned over the high pesticide levels in the crops, particularly basmati, and have been taking up the issue at different levels.
Punjab contributes 40% share to the ₹34,000 crore (USD 4.66 billion) annual basmati exports from India. From 2018 to 2020, the state agriculture department, APEDA and the exporters association have organised awareness camps and cut pesticide use.
Besides Saudi Arabia, others importing basmati from India are Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and countries in North America and Europe.