India and Saudi Arabia have sorted out contentious issues related to the latter’s decision to subject imported food items to mandatory quality checks by bringing in guidelines on maximum residual level (MRL) of pesticides in food items imported to Saudi.
The breakthrough came about after India sent a high level delegation to Riyadh last week to hold discussions with the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) over the proposed guidelines to be followed on the maximum level of pesticide residues allowed in food items, especially in Rice.
SFDA is expected to frame its guidelines on MRL on pesticides and fungicides in 4-5 months.The SFDA decision will come as a major relief to India’s Rice industry, as there was serious apprehension in India whether the Saudi authorities would follow the stringent European Union (EU) or the US guidelines on the MRL for food products, instead of coming up with its own guidelines.
In the absence of clear cut guidelines on MRL by the SFDA, customs authorities in Saudi were often applying the highly stringent EU and US guidelines on Rice export consignments from India, leading to cancellation of several export consignments.
Basmati Rice exports from India to the GCC region were to the tune of about 3 million tonnes in 2017-18, accounting for three-quarters of total Indian Rice exports. In value terms, total Basmati Rice exports from India was about Rs 26,000 crore (approx $3.6 billion) in FY18.