Confusion over basmati steamed rice delays shipment of containers from Punjab.

About 30-40 containers of basmati rice, which are exported in pre-cooked form, have been stuck in the inland container warehouse (ICD) for a few days after the notification by the customs office on January 25. The department said all varieties of rice will be supplied. samples would be taken and tested before issuing a “donate” export order. After the confusion, the Agriculture and Processed Food Development Agency (APEDA), the agricultural export agency, stepped in to resolve the issue within three days.

The authorities said: “Make sure that samples are taken and test reports are received from the customs laboratory within 48 hours.” According to industry sources, however, the matter was resolved after stakeholders explained the reality to customs officials in Ludhiana. The circular may be amended to a random sample of all sections, but Business Line has not been able to confirm whether the impugned notification has been amended or withdrawn. Industry officials and exporters said such things should not happen.

Millers take up issue

Since January 26 was a holiday, exporters could not test, but containers piled up. According to some exporters, 30-40 containers were blocked, but according to the head of the industry association, a total of about 200 containers accumulated in three days.

Punjab Rice Millers Exporters Association took the matter to APEDA who in turn contacted the customs authorities and clarified the correct stand. Industry leaders said that as much as 80 percent of India’s Basmati exports go to Middle Eastern countries and 90 percent of it is pre-cooked. Punjab mainly exports basmati rice through Kandla and Mundra ports, while Visakhapatnam port is a major destination for non-basmati rice shipments.

The government has imposed a 20 percent export tax on pre-boiled non-Basmati rice and non-pre-cooked basmati rice, the exporter explained citing a DGFT notification. The exporters alleged that customs authorities in Ludhiana followed a similar circular issued in Visakhapatnam district without ensuring its usefulness in Punjab. Exporters said non-basmati steamed exports from Punjab are not profitable as farmers sell almost all their produce to the government at minimum support price (MSP). “The current FoB price of non-basmati parboiled rice ($425 per tonne ex-tax) and the minimum export price of $950 per tonne for all basmati rice varieties is huge.

Laboratory test reports are not available within 48 hours due to unavailability of regular laboratories in Ludhiana and nearest Delhi. While adapted laboratory facilities are available at Visakhapatnam port,” said an exporter. Punjab Rice Millers Exporters Association urged APEDA to immediately export all batches of basmati parboiled rice except white rice.

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