About 30-40 containers of Basmati rice, exported in parboiled form, have been stuck for a few days now at the inland container depot (ICD) following a notice from Customs Department authorities on January 25. The department said shipments of all varieties of rice would be subject to sampling and testing before grant of “let” export order.

Following the confusion, agri export promotion body Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) intervened to resolve the issue in three days.

The authorities had said: “Kindly ensure that samples are drawn and test reports are obtained within 48 hours from Custom House Laboratory.”

Industry sources said the matter has been resolved, though, after the stakeholders explained the reality to customs officials in Ludhiana. The circular may be revised to random sampling from all consignments, but businessline could not confirm if the controversial notice has been revised or revoked. Industry officials and exporters said such things should not have happened in the first place.

Millers take up issue

As there were holidays from January 26, exporters could not get the testing done, resutling in containers getting piled up. While some exporters said 30-40 containers got stuck, a director of an industry association claimed about 200 containers piled up in three days.

Punjab Rice Millers Exporters Association took up the matter with APEDA, which, in turn, swung into action by contacting the Customs authorities and explaining the correct position.

Industry leaders said as much as 80 per cent of India’s Basmati exports are shipped to the Middle-East countries and 90 per cent of them are in parboiled form. While Punjab mainly exports Basmati rice through Kandla and Mundra ports, the Vishakhapatnam port is a major destination for shipments of non-Basmati rice.

The government has levied a 20 per cent export duty on parboiled non-Basmati rice and not on parboiled Basmati rice, an exporter explained, referring to the DGFT notification. Exporters alleged that the Customs authority in Ludhiana had followed a similar circular issued in Vishakhapatnam division without verifying its utility in Punjab.

Exporters said there is no viability of non-basmati parboiled export from Punjab due to farmers selling almost entire produce to the government at minimum support price (MSP). “There is a huge gap between the current FoB price of non-basmati parboiled rice ($425/tonne excluding duty) and the minimum export price of $950/tonne on all variants of Basmati rice.

“Obtaining lab test reports in 48 hours is not possible as there is no custom lab available in Ludhiana and the nearest one in Delhi. Whereas custom lab facilities available at the Visakhapatnam port,” the exporter said.

Punjab Rice Millers Exporters Association urged APEDA to get all consignments of Basmati parboiled rice released besides white rice immediately.