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Mon 12 Aug 2019 11:50 AM

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India set to seek deadline extension on Saudi rice exports

Indian rice exporters want more time to follow guidelines set by the Saudi Food and Drug Authority

India set to seek deadline extension on Saudi rice exports

India is expected to ask the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) to extend the September deadline for Indian rice exporters to follow certain guidelines, including registration of farms with the Saudi authority, for export of rice to the kingdom.

The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), the nodal Indian agency for export of rice and other processed foods, which held discussions with the Indian rice exporters’ body on Saturday on the proposed norms, is understood to have decided to ask SFDA for more time for implementation of these guidelines.

"APEDA is also expected to send a note to SFDA to apprise it on what all proposed guidelines India is already ready and what are the norms on which India needs a review by the Saudi authority,” Vijay Setia, president, All India Rice Exporters Association (AIREA), told Arabian Business.

SFDA has framed a 6-point guideline for Indian rice exporters, including mandatory labeling of exporters details and quality certification by laboratories approved by the designated authority on pesticide residues with each consignment.

SFDA has set September 1 this year for Indian rice exporters to follow these guidelines for their exports to the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia is a major export destination for Indian basmati rice and along with GCC countries accounts for about three quarters of Indian exports. A delay in resolving the import guideline issue with the Saudi could affect Indian exports to that country.

India’s total export of basmati rice amounted to $4.71 billion in 2018-19.

Top officials at the Indian rice exporters' body said two of the proposed guidelines – mandatory registration with SFDO of farms from which they export the rice and the extend of ‘other grains’ allowed in basmati rice consignments – are problematic and APEDA is expected to request the Saudi authority to reconsider/relax these proposed norms.

“Unlike in the West, sizes of farms in India vary vastly, with large number of them being small in sizes. Owners of the small farms are neither equipped nor can afford registration of their farms with authorities in foreign countries,” officials said, adding that they hope Saudi authorities would realize the practical problem and may make an exemption to this proposed norm.

On the issue of presence of non-basmati rice in basmati rice consignments, while SFDA guideline proposes consignments should have 93 percent basmati rice, Indian exporters want this limit to be reduced to 85 percent.

“Basmati and non-basmati rice are transported to ‘mandis’ (wholesale markets) from farms in same vehicles and therefore a bit of mixing of the two occur. We have apprised this issue to the authorities and expect a satisfactory resolution of this issue,” Setia said.

Indian exporters said while they do not have any issue on labeling of their details on consignment bags, their importers  in Saudi, especially the leading ones, have a problem with this because of commercial reasons.

​“This is an issue for the Saudi side to sort out,” exporters’ body officials said.

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