Organic exports face testing times from redundant norms
Jumping through hoops: The organic products are tested in multiple laboratories, which involves time and cost s,and is an example of why India has a low rank in the ease of doing business

Exporters of organic products face a tough time getting their products tested in the country as the presence of multiple export control bodies has narrowed the choice of laboratories for them and also increased costs due to multiple-testing requirements, according to a recent study by a Delhi-based think tank.

While there are 112 laboratories accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) that are also approved by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), less than one-fifth are approved by export control bodies such as the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority(APEDA), Export Inspection Council, BIS and Tea Board, a report by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) on organic farming in India pointed out. The report will be released on Wednesday.

Hassles all the way

“Since all export control bodies want the testing laboratories to register with them, it is a hassle for the laboratories, which have to spend a lot of time and money getting multiple registrations done,” said Arpita Mukherjee from ICRIER.

APEDA, which regulates fruits and vegetables and has been implementing product traceability for products such as peanuts since last December, has just 14 laboratories listed as being competent to carry out sampling and testing of organic products against 112 laboratories accredited by NABL and FSSAI.

Of these, the Export Inspection Council (EIC) of India, the nodal agency for export control of food products such as pepper, milk and basmati rice, recognises just eight laboratories, while 13 laboratories are recognised by the BIS and seven laboratories are recognised by the Tea Board.

“If food items are accredited by both the NABL and the FSSAI, all aspects of testing and food safety are covered and there should be no need for further tests. Allowing export control bodies to insist on separate registrations is what is making life difficult for exporters and should be done away with,” Mukherjee said.

No export testing

The report pointed out that it was ironic that while 98 laboratories approved by NABL and FSSAI were eligible to test for organic product imports or items sold in the domestic market, they cannot test products for export.

Redundant testing

For exporters of certain items, including spices such as turmeric, the consignments have to be tested not just in an APEDA approved laboratory but also in a Spices Board of India-approved quality evaluation laboratory, despite the fact that organic is free from chemicals and/or additives, which should have come up in the APEDA approved laboratory test report itself.

“The product is being tested in multiple laboratories, which involves time, effort and cost and is an example demonstrating why India has a low rank in the ease of doing business,” the report stated.

In 2016-17, export of organic products from India was valued at $370 million, which was about 17.5 per cent higher than the previous year. In 2015-16, some of India’s top markets were the EU, the US, Canada, Korea and Australia.

Date: 22-Aug-2017