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Exporters want PM to protect Basmati sales to Europe

New Delhi: Rice exporters have appealed Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene to postpone the European Union’s decision by two years to reduce tolerance level of fungicide tricyclazole to near-zero level.

The All India Rice Exporters Association (AIREA) on Wednesday said the virtual ban on tricyclazole, which is widely used by Basmati farmers, will not just affect traders but have negative impact on farmers’ livelihood.

A delegation led by the Commerce Ministry is set to visit the EU next week to resolve the issue.

The EU has decided to bring down minimum residue level (MRL) for Basmati rice from one ppm to 0.01 ppm from January 2018, which means the rice exports to the EU will come down almost to zero.

“It is not possible for our farmers to stop use of tricyclazole immediately as it is effective and cheap. We need time to educate our farmers to bring down its use or find alternative. However, all these cannot be done in a short time,” AIREA President Vijay Setia said.

“We want the Prime Minister to intervene and ask the EU to postpone the planned ban for two years so that we get time to settle the matter.”

Tricyclazole is developed by Dow Agri Sciences and widely used to combat diseases such as leaf blast and neck blast affecting the paddy crop.

The current MRL in the US and India is three while it is nine in Japan. There are no scientific evidences of the harmful effects of the tricyclazole on human health, Setia added.

Brigadier (Retd) J.S. Oberoi of LT Foods said India can go to the World Trade Organisation claiming disruption of trade. “However, it is a lengthy process and may not be effective.”

Setia said if Indian Pusa Basmati rice failed to make it to Europe, Pakistan will be the biggest beneficiary as its Super Basmati rice — close competitor to Indian Basmati rice — comes without tricyclazole residue.

According to the AIREA, 3.5 lakh tonnes of Basmati rice is exported to the EU from India every year while Pakistan exports 30-40 thousands tonnes.

IANS