Freshfel Europe is urging EU Executive and Trade Commissioner Vladis Dombrosk for a prompt solution on the requirement of a new Indian Order requesting upon import non-GM certification for several fresh produce. The Indian Order due to enter into force on 1st March will introduce unnecessary red tape with the requirement of non-GM certification for several fresh produce imported into India. None of the targeted products are authorized for GM production in the EU, making the requirement irrelevant and burdensome.
Today in a letter to EU Trade Commissioner Vladis Dombroski Freshfel Europe expressed its deep concerns about the new India requirement of non-GM certification. The Indian order adopted on 21 August 2020 on the “requirements on non-GM cum GM free certification accompanied with imported food consignment” has raised concerns of red tape and additional costs among EU exporters to this growing market. Several fresh produce are targeted by the new order including apples, beans, eggplants, melons, plums, sweet peppers and tomatoes.
The Indian Order on non-GM certification was due to come into force on 1 January 2021, but was postponed to 1 March 2021. The European Commission obtained a postponement to allow the negotiation of practical solutions to cope with the non-GM certification requirement. Freshfel Europe General Delegate Philippe Binard commented on the impending entry into force, saying, “While initially welcoming the postponement of the measures, it is important that a practical solution is found by the new implementation date of 1st March. None of the products listed in the Order have been part of a process of genetic modification authorization in the EU”. With no progress on the clarification of the Order, EU exporters are facing the same uncertainties for upcoming shipments due to arrive in India after the 1 March as last year. This month is usually one of the peak export months with more than 20,000 T in 2019.
Last October and November the lack of clarity around the Indian Order widely disrupted the preparation of the start of the export season, which usually peaks from January to April. Operators’ export planning was impacted by shipping time to India, uncertainty on when the rule would apply and possible implementation parameters of the Order in the EU, such as which Member State authorities would take charge of the potential certification. With continued uncertainty these elements continue to lead to an unequal playing field among European exporters into 2021. Mr Binard added, “Freshfel Europe is urging the European Union to urgently clarify the situation. Freshfel Europe fully supports EU fresh produce exports and the EU’s proposal to substitute an individual certification system by a general EU declaration based on the guarantee provided by the EU GMO legal framework”.
Freshfel Europe is expecting that on going negotiations, especially the High Level Meeting between the EU and India on 22 January, can provide an opportunity for a breakthrough towards a practical solution. Freshfel Europe Director for Trade Natalia Santos stressed: “An unnecessary administrative workload for EU Member States and Indian authorities as well as a huge needless burden for fruit and vegetables business will be created if each consignment needs to be individually certified”.
Freshfel Europe believes that a prompt and satisfactory long term solution will allow business continue and grow in confidence, and provide a favourable environment for the EU fresh produce export growth to the strategic Indian market without any additional unnecessary requirements. Ms Santos concluded, “We are confident that the guarantee of the robust EU legislation on GMOs, traceability, and the absence of authorization for GMO EU fruit and vegetables production will provide the necessary guarantee to the Indian authorities to exempt the European fruit and vegetables listed in the Order from this GM-free certification requirement”.
In the last few years European export of fresh fruit and vegetables to India has experienced a significant growth with a peak in 2019 of almost 100,000 T of exports worth €82.5 million and gained year on year market shares in India. The EU export basket primarily includes apples (~88% of export volume), pears, plums and kiwifruit, and involves operators from Italy, Poland, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Belgium and Greece.