Agri Business

India’s stand on fumigation agent irks WTO members

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on January 09, 2018 Published on November 09, 2017

US, others urge New Delhi not to insist on methyl bromide, which many have banned fearing its ozone-depleting potential

Several countries, including the US and Columbia, are resisting at the World Trade Organisation India’s insistence on fumigating farm imports such as tree wood, pulses and cashewnuts with methyl bromide. They contend that the chemical has been banned in many countries because of its potential to damage the ozone layer.

In a recent meeting on pesticides, India said that it had relaxed the fumigation requirement on the condition that imports would be fumigated upon arrival. It was also in consultation with exporting nations to find alternative solutions.

In June, New Delhi was all set to implement its policy of disallowing import of certain farm items such as pulses, cashew nuts and tree wood that were not fumigated with methyl bromide in the country of origin. However, on protests by partner countries, including Canada, Delhi gave a six-month exemption. Imports can now be fumigated at Indian ports on payment of a penalty.

A government official told BusinessLine that “exporters are worried that if India allows the exemption to lapse, their shipments would be in trouble. Since a large number of countries have banned the chemical in their jurisdiction, they would not be able to meet India’s requirements.”

At the WTO meeting, Colombia questioned India’s demand with the US, Madagascar, Burkina Faso, Ukraine, Togo, Nigeria and Mozambique echoing their concerns.

According to Geneva-based trade official, “the countries said that while India had the right to protect plant health, measures should be commensurate with the risks. They urged India to acknowledge other treatments that would offer the same level of protection.”

India insists on methyl bromide fumigation to protect crops from nematode pests. The country’s plant quarantine department had in January informed agricultural counsellors and trade commissioners from several exporting countries that it did not intend extending the permission for fumigating at Indian ports beyond March 31, 2018.

It argued that the exemption, which had been extended to exporters of pulses for more than a decade, was leading to a depletion of India’s ozone layer.

“India is in discussion with its trade partners on alternatives that could be used for fumigation. But the option should be equally effective and not harm our environment,” the first official said.

Published on November 09, 2017
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