Following the European Union’s recent decision to impose a stringent maximum residue limit (MRL) for Tricyclazole, a fungicide used by farmers against a disease from December 31, 2017, rice exporters in the country have launched an extensive campaign to educate the farmers in key growing states of Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh on the judicious use of pesticides. According to Vijay Setia, president, All India Rice Exporters Association (AIREA), the focus of the campaign, which is being carried out in collaboration with agricultural scientists, has been to educate the farmers about using the fungicide within 70 days of commencement of kharif sowing and not to use it at the flowering stage.

“Many a times rice exports consignments were rejected because of detection of pesticides residues and our focus would be educate the farmers against use of excessive pesticides which would lead to higher price realisation,” Setia told FE. EU has brought down the MRL level for Tricyclazole to virtually zero or 0.01 milligram (mg) per kg from next year. Similarly, USA does not permit the presence of residues of pesticides like Isoprothiolane and Buprofezin beyond 0.01 mg per kg. EU and the US markets are high value markets for rice exporters although major chunk of rice is shipped to mostly Gulf and African countries.

According to a commerce ministry official, “Only those pesticides should be used by farmers which are recommended by the state agriculture universities for application on paddy crop. In addition, the correct dose of the recommended pesticide.” The official said the country is largest exporter of rice in the world since last five years. “However, export of rice has faced problems in last few years in different markets like USA, EU and Iran due to detection of residues of pesticides exceeding prescribed MRL,” he noted.

AIREA will be holding a series of meetings with farmers across key basmati growing areas of Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh as farmers are preparing nurseries for kharif paddy plantation. India has an around 85% share in global basmati exports while the rest is contributed by Pakistan.