The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has notified the quality standards for basmati rice. This has been done to ensure genuine basmati rice is sold to consumers in domestic and international markets. The quality standards will come into effect from August 1, a Ministry of Health and Family Welfare statement said.
The order on basmati standards has come out with a separate provision on blended rice in which basmati can be mixed.
The FSSAI has notified standards for various types of basmati, including brown basmati rice, milled basmati rice, parboiled brown basmati rice and milled parboiled basmati rice. “Basmati rice shall possess natural fragrance characteristic of basmati rice and be free from artificial colouring, polishing agents and artificial fragrances,” the food safety authority stated.
The standards have been set for various identity and quality parameters for basmati rice. This includes the average size of grains and their elongation ratio after cooking, maximum limits of moisture, amylose content, uric acid, defective/damaged grains and incidental presence of other non-basmati rice among others.
“The standards are aimed at establishing fair practices in the trade of basmati rice and protect consumer interest, both domestically and globally. These standards will be enforced with effect from August 1, 2023,” the statement said.
Norms for broken rice
Standards have also been notified for broken basmati rice. “The type of broken rice, such as Tibar, Dubar, Mogra, shall be prominently mentioned on the label,” the FSSAI notification stated..
For blended rice, the food safety authority has defined it as a mixture of basmati and non-basmati rice “which resemble each other as closely as possible in final attributes and shall be free from off odour .” It also stated that every package of blended rice will need to mention the name, type and percentage of the rice that it contains on the label.
“Being premium quality rice and fetching a price higher than the non-basmati varieties, basmati rice is prone to various types of adulteration for economic gains which may include, among others, an undeclared blending of other non-basmati varieties of rice. Therefore, in order to ensure supply of standardised genuine basmati rice in domestic and export markets, FSSAI has notified regulatory standards for Basmati rice,” the official statement said.
The standards have been framed after extensive consultations with government departments, agencies and other stakeholders as well.
Maintaining ‘pure basmati’
Basmati rice is a premium variety of rice cultivated in the Himalayan foothills of the Indian sub-continent and is universally known for its long grain size, fluffy texture and unique inherent aroma and flavour.
The notification of the standards is significant as it will protect the fragrant variety’s purity and prevent any dilution. The is important since the long-grained rice has got a geographical indication (GI) tag, which is crucial for exclusive marketing in the European Union and other developed nations.
The process to notify basmati standards has been in the works since 2017. The decision will benefit farmers to get more returns, while consumers will gain by getting to eat “pure basmati”.
Right now, domestic consumers pay more for basmati with prices ranging between ₹100 and ₹250 a kg. In the global market, Indian basmati rice 2 per cent broken is quoted at $1,450 a tonne.
Before coming out with the standards notification, the FSSAI sought views from across the country if it could allow blended basmati permitting 30 per cent blending or omit it. An expert told the FSSAI that any basmati rice packet having over 15 per cent non-basmati variety will be considered “blended rice” and not as “blended basmati rice”.
Therefore, the FSSAI decided not to have any upper limit of blending and delete the word “basmati” and suitably amend the labelling requirement. The notification will now guarantee the quality and authentication label of basmati rice.
The decision will increase the cost for rice millers to comply with the norms, while FSSAI will have to incur costs for its enforcement, particularly for DNA testing. It will regulate the basmati market, which has a demand of about 4 million tonnes (mt) for exports and 1.5 mt in the domestic market.