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`Indian agri exporters should view SPS pact as opportunity'

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"Exporters and suppliers of foodgrains should adhere to SPS measures on a scientific basis, and we also need to involve the agricultural universities."

Kolkata , Sept. 20

SUGGESTING that agri-business in India should be knowledge-driven, Mr S.S. Ahuja, Principal Secretary, Department of Food Processing and Horticulture, Government of West Bengal, said here that the existing agreement on sanitary and physto-sanitary (SPS) measures should be viewed as an opportunity and a challenge by Indian exporters.

Delivering the keynote address at a workshop organised by the CII - Eastern Region in association with India Development Foundation (IDF), on `Sanitary & SPS Measures', he said the Indian farmer now needs to move away from the subsistence level to commercial considerations, if Indian agri-business has to be taken to new heights. However, he added that countries should not allowed to use the agreement as a disguised form of protection, "and we need to be alert on this front".

The agreement on SPS measures specifies the general principles, and rules and regulations that member States should undertake for protecting the life and health of humans, animals and plants. According to CII, the issue was a cause of concern as India is threatened on many export opportunities, as domestic producers are unable to meet the SPS measures specified by other countries, as a result of which our products are rejected.

Admitting that there are difficulties and problems for Indian exporters on fulfilling the SPS measures, particularly with regard to issues such as pesticide residues, heavy metal contamination etc, and that interests of farmers/agri-products exporters have to be protected, Mr Ahuja said that the proposed integrated food law, now before Parliament, would be able to take care of these problems. The Government is keen on this, and is willing to forge large-scale consultations with industry bodies and NGOs to address these issues.

Exporters and suppliers of foodgrains should adhere to SPS measures on a scientific basis, and we also need to involve the agricultural universities, he pointed out. He said that exporters of agri-commodities should understand that the SPS agreement includes provisions for inspection, control etc, with a scope for corrective action, wherever needed.

Mr Ahuja said the West Bengal Government, which has a strong position in agri-commodities and fresh vegetables, has already set up a Codex cell to tackle the issue of standards.

Highlighting the work being done in this area by the IDF, Dr Shubhashis Gangopadhyay, its director, said a comprehensive study has been made to bring out the salient features of the SPS agreement, and put in a CD ROM, which could be useful to the Indian exporters.

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