Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Wednesday, Jun 14, 2006
Agri-Biz & Commodities
Industry & Economy - Exports & Imports
Wheat tender bypasses Plant Quarantine Order
Against the grain
31 exotic weeds permitted within defined limits
Relaxation extends to tolerance limits on pesticides
Upper limit raised on damaged grain content
New Delhi , June 13
In a major sop to overseas suppliers, the State Trading Corporation of India (STC) has been allowed to virtually bypass the Plant Quarantine (Regulation of Import into India) Order, 2003 in its latest tender for import of 22 lakh tonnes (lt) of wheat.Thus, 31 exotic weeds, banned in the previous two tenders in line with the Order's provisions, have for the first time been permitted within defined limits.
Instead of the imported wheat being entirely free of these weeds, STC's tender floated on Monday allows up to "100 quarantine weed seeds per 200 kg of samples... as per the prescribed procedure."
Officials justified the blanket exemption from the Order - for which Cabinet approval was given on June 2 - on grounds that the wheat being imported was meant for human consumption.
Problems for sowing only
"The weeds will create problems only if the wheat is diverted as seed for sowing. But since it is exclusively for the public distribution system, we have eased the zero tolerance provided in the Order," they said, adding that no amendments to the Order as such have been made.
Even in respect of Argemone mexicana and Lathyrus sativus, while earlier the imported consignment had to be "completely free" of these poisonous seeds, the new tender says that the wheat has to be "practically free" and that this "be ensured by the supplier through sieving and other appropriate methods." Further, the presence of deoxynivalenol, a toxin, has been allowed up to 2,000 parts per billion (ppb).
This is against the existing 1,000 ppb standard, which had been considered far too rigorous, particularly by the US wheat trade.
But the relaxations are not just limited to quarantine and poisonous weeds - they also extend to raising the tolerance limits (in parts per million or ppm) on various pesticides.
These include carbaryl (from 1.5 ppm to two ppm), fenitrothion (from 0.02 to two), hydrogen phosphide (from nil to 0.1), inorganic bromide (from 25 to 50), phosphamidon residues (from 0.05 to 0.1), and dithiocarbamates (from 0.20 to one).
Simultaneously, the mandatory fumigation of cargo with methyl bromide has been totally done away with, against the earlier condition requiring spraying at least once during transit or at the port of discharge.
Overseas suppliers had objected to this, as methyl bromide is banned in advanced countries in view of it being an ozone depleting substance.Now, they have the option of using the more environment-friendly aluminium phosphide.
The other major relaxation is on damaged grain content, with the upper limit having been raised from three per cent to four per cent; the limit has also been raised from three per cent to five per cent for broken and shrivelled grains.
This is subject to an overall limit of seven per cent (earlier five per cent) for foreign matter, damaged, and broken and shrivelled grains, put together.
Also, moisture content of up to 13.75 per cent (from 13.5 per cent) has been deemed as acceptable. "Till now, our objective was to block imports, for which stiff quarantine norms were an effective non-tariff barrier. But this no longer being the case, we hope the latest relaxations will widen bidder participation," the officials said.
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