Peeved at the ban of 10 pesticides by Punjab and Haryana government last month, an industry body has termed the decision as “trimming the feet to fit the shoes” and suggested that instead of meeting the Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) standards set by the European Union (EU), India should impose similar standards on items imported from that region.

“Banning pesticides in India to meet the EU MRLs amounts to trimming the feet to fit the shoes,” said S Ganesan, Advisor (Trade Related International Agreements) with Crop Care Federation of India (CCFI). He said India should implement its own rules framed under the Food Safety and Standards Act that allows treating of the MRL standard at 0.01 parts per million (ppm) for items not specifically prescribed a standard.

Pesticide residues are traces of pesticides on the agricultural commodities and the maximum limit is fixed by countries on those items keeping in mind the health and safety concerns of the people. MRL is measured in terms of ppm or mg/kg, and 0.01 ppm means 1 gm per 100 tons.

APEDA’s request

Last month, Punjab and Haryana banned 10 pesticides used in the basmati crop for 60 days. Haryana government’s notification said that the Agriculture and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) had made a request to take action like ban or restriction on the use of specific pesticides like Tricyclazole, which are found as residues most commonly in the basmati rice.

APEDA had even sought to at least impose a temporary ban on the use of Tricyclazole during the current Kharif season. Punjab government, on the other hand, said it received a similar representation from the Punjab Rice Millers and Exporters Association.

The orders by both the States have prohibited the sale, stock, distribution and use of all types of formulations of the 10 insecticides — Acephate, Buprofezin, Carbendazim, Chlorpyriphos, Methamidophos, Propiconazole, Thiamethoxam, Tricylazole, Profenophos, and Isoprothiolance.

Pakistan’s gain

Ganesan said that the EU is a minor market for rice in general and for Indian rice in particular. Even though India has lost to Pakistan in the EU market, it is more due to price rather than MRL. He cited that Pakistan had sold basmati in the EU at $857/tonne against $894/tonne by India during 2017-21 whereas the rates were $837 by Pakistan and $851 by India during 2012-17.

India’s share in EU rice import has declined to 11 per cent in 2021 (calendar year) from 31 per cent in 2012 whereas in the same period Pakistan’s share has surged to 25 per cent from 5 per cent.

“The decision of Punjab and Haryana to suspend the use of 10 generic pesticides was ill-conceived, unwarranted, and would in no way help increase increasing basmati rice export,” said Deepak Shah, Chairman of CCFI. “Instead, it would only increase the cost of cultivation as the farmers would be forced to use expensive alternatives.”

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