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India ropes in global institution to curb contamination in spice shipments

Starting July, Geneva-based Standards and Trade Development Facility will train farmers on better use of agri inputs.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: May 18, 2019, 10.58 AM IST
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Many exporters are unable to meet the requirements of the destination markets due to high levels of aflatoxin, salmonella and pesticide residues” in the shipments.
GENEVA: India has roped in an agency supported by the World Trade Organization to train its farmers of black pepper, cumin, fennel and coriander on food safety and hygiene, to tackle increasing rejection of its spice exports by the US, European Union, Australia and Japan.

Starting July, Geneva-based Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) will train farmers on better use of agri inputs such as planting materials and regulated use of pesticides in line with international norms.

“Many exporters are unable to meet the requirements of the destination markets due to high levels of aflatoxin, salmonella and pesticide residues” in the shipments, said a WTO official on the issue.

Between January 2018 and May 2019, there have been 37 notifications — a majority of those related to border rejections and total recall of products — over the absence of or improper health certificates accompanying spice shipments from India, aflatoxin and salmonella contamination.

As per the agency, India produces more than 3 million tonnes of spices a year, but the volume of exports appears low at about 800,000 tonnes.

“Our exports of spices are very low because of high domestic demand. However, it is true that rejections have been increasing because of higher detection and scrutiny by developed countries,” said a government official aware of the matter.

Issues over contamination have made spice exports get oriented to the Middle East where the prices are significantly lower, leading to a loss of potential revenue.

Housed in the WTO, the STDF was founded by five international organisations: The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Organisation for Animal Health, World Bank, World Health Organization and the WTO.

The training programme for Indian farmers will run for three years, and will be funded by the facility, Indian government and FAO. This is STDF’s first project in India.

As per the WTO official, the project aims to train farmers, producers and processors on food safety issues and reduce the risk of contamination in spices. Based on the results, the Spices Board will enlist laboratories for testing spices. Also, a National Contaminant and Residue Monitoring Programme for spices will be developed and implemented.

(This reporter is in Geneva at the invitation of the WTO)
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