The European Union is all set to make changes to regulations on pesticide residue levels in grapes. This change is likely to spell trouble for Indian grape exports to the member countries of the EU.
Grapes is a major export commodity for India. In 2015-16 alone, India exported 1,56,218.34 MT of grapes worth Rs. 1,551.32 crores. The top export markets for India’s grapes in 2015-16 were Netherland, United Kingdom, Russia, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Netherland, a member country of EU was the No 1 export market for India in 2015-16. India exported 50,702.44 MT of grapes worth 58,814.61 lakhs to EU member country. EU and the UK, in fact, imported the largest share of Indian grapes at 65,000 tonnes.
Coming back to the change in regulation, EU wants to bring down residue levels of chlormequat chloride (CCL), a plant growth regulator to 0.01 ppm soon. Earlier the mandated level was 0.05 ppm.
Top officials of the Maximum Residue Level (MRL) Committee, senior officials of the Union commerce department and APEDA convened at the National Research Centre for Grapes to discuss the fallout of the change. The senior officials have decided to initiate talks with the EU on behalf of the Indian exporters.
In 2010, Indian grape exports have been rejected by the EU as the presence of CCL was in excess of the mandated level. This was after the EU had introduced new regulations on pesticides, increasing the number of chemicals to monitored from 98 to 197. Indian exporters, however, were not aware of the new rules leading to the rejection of grape exports. While only 10% of the consignments were rejected, the regulatory change became a huge issue. It was only in 2014 that Indian grapes began to find favour in the international market.
Jagannath Kapre, the president of the All India Grape Exports Association who also took part in the meeting revealed that they were going to request the EU to allow a 5-year period to bring down the residue levels in the soil. He went on to explain that CCL as a chemical do not pose any hazard and is used as a plant growth regulator by farmers.
As per the European Food Safety Authority, 1.06 ppm is a safe level, while existing regulations mention 0.05 ppm as the maximum residue level. EU’s detection machines can currently detect pesticides to the level of 0.05 ppm but with the help of advanced technology EU will be easily able to detect up to 0.01 ppm, Kapre said.
Kapre said that the officials have decided to present the European authorities with the necessary documents based on which they will request details about the status quo on the existing levels.
The proposed change to the regulation was made public in June by the EU. As soon as the association and other industry people came to know of the change they approached the commerce ministry. Officials were then sent to the EU by the commerce ministry to understand the situation.
Meanwhile, the good news is that Canada will soon start importing Indian grapes. This is a result of the recent Indo-Canadian bilateral discussions which took place in New Delhi. Indian exporters, however, will have to wait until the next season to start exporting to Canada though. Canada also has strict rules in place which requires grape exporters to register vineyards and pack houses and ensure complete traceability.