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India’s Fumigation Rules Extended Amidst Uncertainty In Pulses Export

An expert from food policy research institute told BW Businessworld that many countries have their environmental practices so strong that they do not allow fumigation at ports.

Photo Credit : Shutterstock


Old fumigation rules that were related to imports had expired on June 30 this year. But in a strange move a well prepared union government of India had extended the current laws up to September this year. 

The agrarian experts that were already divided in different opinions seem unable to speak about the outcome. 

Some said, had this law expired, import of pulses and some other food items would have seriously hampered. According to law, importers could not find themselves able to fumigate (disinfect) the pulses and other food items at Indian ports.

An expert from food policy research institute told BW Businessworld that many countries have their environmental practices so strong that they do not allow fumigation at ports. Meanwhile extending the fumigation law in light of already 22 per cent lower sowing of pulses in current kharif season (area wise) across India would have resulted in a lower output of pulses.

It has been another doubtful decision as Canada the biggest exporter of pulses to India do not allow fumigation at its ports due to use of Methyl-Bromide as fumigating element as it makes adverse effects on ozone level. It is believed that Canada exports almost 30 per cent of our total pulses imports.

As availability of pulses in India is higher and prices are ruling lower, import flow is bound to decrease considerably in coming weeks.

The table above clearly shows our dependency on Canada and US for pulses, jaggery processed fruit/vegetable and other miscellaneous food items. In the year 2016-17 Canada exported us Rs 778077.4 lakh pulses and US exported Rs 123005.2 lakh pulses, though US fills the gap with Rs 13989.1 lakh jaggery and other food items worth Rs 40450.4 lakh. Soon the US may restrict the use of Methyl-Bromide for the fumigation on its port due to environmental issues leaving India with no other choice than to do it on Indian ports and affecting ozone layer seriously.

Exempting Canada

Though the exemption applies to all the nations but Canada would have suffered most, it is now clear that the shipments that left Canada on or before 30 June are exempted and practice may continue till this September. India’s fumigation policy is aimed at preventing the import of pests, but Indian agricultural analysts see this as a non-tariff barrier to curb imports and support local prices, especially when New Delhi has surplus stocks of pulses and a new wheat harvest is under way.

Few aggressive farmers’ union term it as a pressure from exporters include Glencore agriculture unit Viterra and AGT Food and Ingredients. On the other hand Canadian exporters had termed it as a good sign keeping an eye over falling exports to India due to uncertainty of Indian government’s policy from past few months.

What is Fumigation?

Fumigation is a method of killing pests, termites or any other harmful living organisms to prevent transfer of exotic organisms. Fumigation is executed by suffocation or poisoning pests within an area of specified space by using fumigants. Normally it is done for wood material used for packing of goods to be exported and also for the grains and pulses etc.. In some cases, empty container before stuffing of cargo is fumigated, but in most of the cases it is done after packaging which is more effective. A gas form of fumigant is used for it which is very effective but avoidable method for food items for direct consumption.

Methyl-bromide is commonly used and widely used as fumigant all over the world. Few other fumigants are chloropicrin phosphate, dichloropropene, methyl isocynate (the gas which killed millions in Bhopal tragedy), hydrogen cyanide and they all have one factor common, destruction of ozone layer.

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