The European Union issued 47 notifications in November 2012 asking companies to check for contamination in food products imported from India. That’s an alarming jump from the monthly average of four-five alerts for Indian agri products.
According to a source, the trade arm of the EU, the European Commission (EC), has also warned India that the high level of rejection due to presence of “toxic substances” may lead to a complete ban on products such as groundnuts.
Of India’s merchandise exports to the EU, about 7 per cent are agricultural products. During the first eight months of 2012, India’s total exports to the EU were worth $18 billion.
It was in 2010 that the EC introduced increased checks on food products from India.
Following the November alerts, the EU told India that groundnuts, curry leaves and okra (lady’s finger) coming from India would have to undergo 100 Spike in EU alerts over ‘tainted’ India farm products per cent pre-export testing, and would need a health certificate guaranteeing absence of harmful pesticides. The EC also told the Indian Embassy that it was planning to undertake “documentary control at the border inspection posts while checking 20 per cent of the groundnuts imported”.
A source in India’s Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority said they had taken note of the EU alerts. “Export of groundnuts happens through sea and certain fungi like aflatoxins are produced when groundnut comes in contact with water. So that is why the samples we test don’t have aflatoxins but when they reach the EU inspection border, they contain aflatoxins.”
The export authority refused to come on record.
Earlier in June last year, the EC had expressed concern over aflatoxins in consignments of groundnuts and pesticide residues in okra and curry leaves. In 2010, there had been a sharp increase in aflatoxins found in spices.