Months after Basmati grains from Punjab failed the Maximum Residual Limit (MRL) test for several pesticides, the government has now threatened the agro-chemical dealers of the state with strong action following an inquiry, if the produce is found in the residues in this Basmati season.
In the fresh orders to District Agriculture Officers of the state on Tuesday, Secretary Agriculture, Kahan Singh Pannu has stated that if after testing Basmati grains are found to contain the residues of nine pesticides banned recently, an inquiry will be ordered and if any pesticide dealer is found to have sold the banned pesticide to farmers, then action under the Insecticides Act, 1968 will be taken. The Act provides for cancellation of licence, and launching of prosecution against the errant dealer which entails a punishment of three years and a fine of Rs 75,000.
The orders also direct the AOs to not even allow stocking of the banned pesticides and sensitise farmers that the orders were in their favour so that their produce gets good price in the international market.
The latest orders come days after Chief Minister Amarinder Singh ordered the ban on Acephate, Triazophos, Thiamethoxam, Carbendazim, Tricyclazole, Buprofezin, Carbofuron, Propiconazole and Thiophinate Methyl.
Pannu said, “We want to make sure that Basmati does not get even the minimum residue of these banned pesticides and the produce gets a good price in the international market and the produce also finds favour with the European Union (EU) that had stopped importing Basmati from India owing to the residue of these pesticides. Now, we will go to the last man to find out who has sold these pesticides to farmers even though the PAU recommends safer pesticides.”
He said that the government had been making efforts that there were no residues of these chemicals but last year despite these efforts the residues were found in the samples of the produce. Punjab Government Food Safety Laboratory, Kharar indicated that out of 51 samples, nine samples of rice contained the residue of these chemicals above the MRL (Maximum Residue Limit) value.
Similarly, Punjab Biotechnology Incubator Agri and Food Testing Laboratory, Sahibzada Ajit Singh Nagar, Punjab; NABL accredited laboratory of government of Punjab, in its report submitted that seven number of samples were found to contain pesticide residue in rice above MRL value.
The EU, having 28 countries in the union, had started rejecting consignments of Indian Basmati a few years ago after bringing the MRL for all these agro-chemicals, from 0.03 mg to 0.01 mg per kg except Triazophos for which the MRL is 0.02 mg. This has cost the Basmati growers dear as India’s four lakh tonnes Basmati export to the EU earlier had come down to 1.85 lakh tonnes.
The Centre had made a certification of inspection from Export Inspection Council (EIC) mandatory for Basmati. Many samples had failed the test last year. This had led to a fall in price of Basmati from Rs 3,700 per quintal in 2018 to Rs 2,700 per quintal in 2019.
Punjab Rice Millers and Exporters Association had also reported that many samples got tested by them contained the residue value of these pesticides much above the MRL values in Basmati Rice. The Association requested for ban of these agrochemicals to save the heritage Basmati produce of Punjab, and to ensure hassle free export of rice to other countries. Following this, the government has taken strong steps.
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