The European Union’s stringent norms on bringing down tolerance level for tricyclazole in basmati rice imports are likely to severely hit exports of grains from India. Tricyclazole is a fungicide used to protect the crop from a disease called ‘blast’. India is the leading exporter of the basmati rice in the global market. India has increased the export by five times in the last 10 years due to the strength of its Basmati rice. In such a scenario, it is the duty of Indian basmati producers to take care of the purchaser’s choice and make sure that the highest standards are met and that taste of Indian basmati is enjoyed the world over. The country exported 4.05 million tonne of basmati rice worth Rs 22,727 crore during 2015-16. Of the total exports, around 0.38 million tonne worth Rs 1,930 crore were to EU, according to the data from the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDEA).
According to the MD of ATC Food, Mr. Pankaj Goel, Tricyclazole is being used since 30 years by the rice farmers for PB1 and 1401 varieties and comes in many variants in different Indian markets. “Tricyclazole is not the treatment of fungus but the vaccination given before the onset of illness. The farmers can use, if required, Tricyclazole from the start of cultivation of paddy till 70 days with the advice of agricultural scientists but should not use it after the paddy has blossomed,” said Mr. Goel. “Not only spraying of Tricyclazole till 40 days before harvesting of Paddy, leave the residual impression of the drug on the paddy but Tricyclazole has no effect on the disease at that stage. If the farmers of the country take control of the use of Tricyclazole, then the changing parameters of the European Union would also be able to accommodate Indian Basmati varieties,” explained Mr. Goel. The rice exporters have made representation to Government of India through AIREA to make available right information to the farmers so that they could reduce their cost by regulating the use of Tricyclazole and help make Indian Basmati adhere to the standards of EU, revealed Mr. Goel.
Mr. Mohit Gupta, Director of Bharat Industrial Enterprise Ltd., also expressed concern over the drastic lowering of tolerance levels of Tricyclazole. He said, “The UN approved Harmonization of Standards should not be tampered with without valid reasons and without consulting the concerned Countries.” He further stressed that farmers need to be educated on the correct use of pesticides such as Tricyclazole that is particularly used for ‘Pusa Basmati.’ The government as well as private grain storage facilities needs to be improved on so that less fumigation is required for storage of paddy and rice. The young and dynamic entrepreneur emphasised on better management of godowns to deliver clean and green agri products to the world.
As per Dow Chemicals, the producer of Tricyclazole, this fungicide is only effective pesticide to control rice blast disease. But exporters said farmers prefer Tricyclazole because it is cheaper than other pesticides. The rice blast disease occurs in PB1 and 1401 varieties and not in the Super variety Basmati, which Pakistan exports to Europe. The MRL in Tricyclazole in US and India is 3ppm and in Japan it is 10 ppm. So, it may not be entirely a health issue. Dow Chemicals has also been asked by the European Commission to provide further information on this pesticide.
India is in talks separately with European countries, such as Italy and Portugal, which do not support the EU initiative of raising the tolerance limit to put pressure on the bloc not to go ahead with its plan, the official added. The MRL for tricyclazole, a fungicide used by rice-growing countries to protect the crop from a disease called ‘blast’, is at present fixed at 1 ppm by the EU. This level does not prove to be a problem for Indian exports at the moment, as levels detected in Indian basmati consignments are much lower. However, if the MRL is brought down to 0.01 ppm, as indicated by the EU, a large part of India’s $3 billion export of basmati to Europe could be affected. Rice exporters from India are preparing for the worst by arranging for pre-testing of shipments, but are hopeful that the EU will change its mind.