China might finally agree to import non-basmati rice from 14 registered mills in India. These mills are in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. It is considered as a major breakthrough in India’s efforts to ensure market access for Indian products (especially rice) in China as it is the world’s largest rice importer. India had repeatedly sought market access for items including non-basmati rice, pharmaceuticals and many fruits and vegetables among others, citing the country’s widening goods trade deficit with China. However, China had not granted market access to India’s non-basmati rice claiming that it failed to meet Chinese norms on quality, safety and health standards. China’s apprehensions included the possibility of the cabinet beetle (or Khapra beetle) pest getting transported along with Indian non-basmati rice consignments to China. In India, China’s objection to Indian non-basmati export was seen more political in nature than anything else as it imports non-basmati rice from its all-time friend Pakistan.
Rajen Sundaresan, Executive Director, All India Rice Exporters Association (AIREA), said he was also hopeful that the Chinese authorities will shortly give green signal for non-basmati rice exports from India to China. He said a recent joint survey done by AIREA and the leading agro-chemical (including pesticides) firm UPL found that the allegations regarding the presence of Khapra beetle in processed Indian rice were wrong and vastly exaggerated. Export of Basmati rice to China has been open since past two years. There were some issues with customs therefore there was no movement. Recently AQSIQ the Chinese Quarantine division of customs inspected 19 mills registered with NPPO for export to China and has approved 14 units. They are now eligible to export to China. As yet none of them has orders. This approval is only for export of Basmati. Non-Basmati is still not allowed into China.
China may soon grant market access to India’s non-basmati rice exports, acceding to a long-pending request from New Delhi. “The inspection is a very significant stage in the process,” A. K. Gupta, Director (Basmati Export Development Foundation, foreign trade, World Trade Organisation-related matters & agri-export zones), APEDA, said. He expressed hope that following the inspection, China will soon issue a formal notification regarding permission for non-basmati rice exports from India. The Chinese authorities had carried out a similar inspection in 2009, following which in 2011-12, they gave their nod to basmati exports from India to China, Mr. Gupta added. Pointing out that the 19 mills are involved in processing non-basmati and basmati rice, he said, therefore, the inspection will cover both varieties. Chinese officials visited India in September this year to inspect all 19 rice mills registered with National Plant Protection Organization (NPPO). NPPO had assisted its Chinese counterpart AQSIQ during inspection for plant quarantine purposes and pest-risk analysis to ensure that non-basmati consignments from India will be of good quality, pest-free and safe. NPPO is the nodal government agency for inspecting mills and granting certificates on plant health for export purposes and it is mandatory for Indian rice exporters to get registered with NPPO.