On February 25th, a solution was finally found - albeit temporary - for the question concerning the GMO Free certification for the export of some Italian products to India, including apples. Operators will be able to continue exporting with a "declaration" signed by the regional/provincial authorities upon submitting specific analyses on the variety exported.
This result took a lot of effort from various subjects - producers, represented mainly by Assomela (considering the increasing volume of apples that reaches India every year), the central Plant Protection Service and some regional/provincial plant protection offices that helped find a balance between the authorities and operator needs so as to avoid exports being blocked. The Italian Embassy in New Delhi played a pivotal role and remained in contact with producers, MIPAAF, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, FSSAI and the EU delegation.
The problem, which does not make much sense considering the prohibition to grow GMO plants - and therefore fruits - in Europe, exploded over the past few weeks because of the nearing deadline of March 1st.
The Indian authorities issued the order in August 2020. Considering the nature of the Indian request, the EU has taken the matter into its own hands, although it is still negotiating an exemption from the need to issue the certificate, considering that the European legislation prohibits GMO cultivation. Alternatively, it is working on having to issue a single GMO Free declaration valid for all member states.
After the entry into force of the provision was postponed from January 1st 2021 to March 1st 2021, each single country continued to negotiate bilateral "national" agreements with India. The problem is the lack of clarity regarding the body that should issue the certification or declaration.
After a week of talks in Italy and with the Indian authorities, an agreement was reached thanks to the help of plant protection authorities that will enable to continue exporting apples to India - a sigh of relief for operators as the commercial campaign reaches its peak. Dozens of containers were shipped on March 1st, to be followed by many others.
The 2018/2019 campaign (the past campaign was affected by the pandemic and global dynamics) reached a record 48,081 tons of apples shipped to India for a value of €40.9 million, making Europe the leading apple supplier. India has become a strategic country for European apples, especially for some varieties.
Considering that the chances of a shared European solution are slim in the short period and that various countries do not seem to have found a solution, the Italian agreement becomes even more significant as it leaves no room for competitors.
In the meantime, negotiations for a definitive solution are still underway and may involve the Ministry of Health. All subjects involved must do their part and avoid shipping apples with different documents depending on the region.
The collaboration between national and local bodies and operators was essential. Sharing the same objectives is of strategic importance to ensure the involvement of all actors and export Italian products abroad, especially in a moment such as this one.