Clock ticks on India’s fumigation exemption

Pulse crop exporters are getting antsy about the looming expiration of an exemption to an Indian phytosanitary policy.

India has a blanket requirement that all pulse imports must be fumigated to ensure there is no presence of certain quarantine pests.

The policy states that fumigation has to occur at origin. However, India has provided a waiver to certain countries, including Canada, allowing exporters to fumigate shipments at destination in India.

That is because it is too cold in Canada to properly fumigate. A minimum temperature of 21 C is required for effective fumigation.

The waiver has been in place since 2004. Canada has been regularly receiving six-month extensions to the waiver since that time.

However, the last extension didn’t come until one day before the Sept. 30 expiration date, which caused plenty of indigestion for exporters with valuable cargos of peas and lentils in transit to India.

A 60,000 tonne Panamax vessel loaded with red lentils would be worth $54 million, so it is obvious why shippers want assurances that the vessel will not be rejected at port in India.

The current extension expires March 31, which means any cargo in transit as soon as Jan. 15 could be in jeopardy of being rejected if India fails to extend the waiver.

Gordon Bacon, chief executive officer of Pulse Canada, said the issue was raised in a Nov. 17 meeting with Canada’s Market Access Secretariat.

The contingent included Bacon, Pulse Canada chair Lee Moats and Canadian Special Crops Association president Colin Topham.

“It is top of mind, and the point we made was we need 60 to 90 days advance notice of change in policies given the supply chain,” he said.

The group requested that the issue be raised at the ministerial level if there is an opportunity because they don’t want a repeat of the super-short notice on the last extension.

“That’s not the world that we want to live in,” said Bacon.

“We don’t want to revert back to where we were 10 years ago when there was that level of uncertainty.”

The India Pulses and Grains Association wrote a letter to its members Oct. 3 that provided insight into why there appears to be recent changes in enforcement of the fumigation policies.

“The Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine & Storage (PPQ&S) under the Ministry of Agriculture has taken a decision to implement all the PQ regulations very strictly starting Jan. 17,” stated the letter.

The association suggested later in the document that the motivation behind the policy shift was retaliation.

“The decision of the PPQ&S to adopt this tough stance is basis the fact that importing countries do not accept any non-compliance and reject consignments for the smallest aberrations resulting in huge losses for Indian exporters.”

Bacon said there are practical realities that should enter into India’s decision about whether to provide another exemption.

“Canada is the biggest supplier (of pulses), and if India puts conditions we can’t meet, then India has a problem as well as we have a problem,” he said.

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