Indian spices row: Commerce ministry says rejection rate of Indian spices exports remain low

As Indian spices exports face global scrutiny, the commerce ministry on Wednesday said that rejection rates for these items are low. It also stated that export sample failures for India exports remains significantly low and underlined that such incidents are one off in nature.

“The rejection rate of spices is less than 1% of the total quantity exported by us to major jurisdictions,” said a top commerce ministry official, noting that the ministry monitors all recall and rejection data.

India exported about 14.15 million tonne of spices in FY24 and “200 kg is a small quantity that has been recalled,” he noted.

The comments come after Singapore and Hong Kong have suspended sales of certain spice blends by Indian companies MDH and Everest over concerns of high level of cancer causing pesticide ethylene oxide. Since then, Indian spices are facing global scrutiny with regulators in the US, Australia as well as New Zealand investigating the issue.

In FY24, India’s spice exports amounted to $4.25 billion and accounted for about 12% of the global spice exports.

Officials noted that the sample failure for Indian exports remains low at 0.1% to 0.2% while sample failure for imports from other countries is at 0.73%. “One sample being impacted is not a big issue,” they underlined, adding that India also rejects samples from many countries at times.

They also noted that ethylene oxide (EtO) is a fumigant type of product that is used during transportation, adding that some amount of pesticide is allowed in the process of food management. Further, different countries also have prescribed varying limits of chemicals that can be present in food.

However, since the issue has cropped up, the commerce ministry has taken a number of measures to prevent EtO contamination in spices exported from India.

The Spices Board has organised a stakeholder consultation with over 130 exporters and associations over the issue.

Further, a techno scientific committee also conducted a root cause analysis, inspecting processing facilities and collected samples for testing in accredited labs. In response to the committee’s recommendations, mandatory sampling and testing for EtO residues has also been implemented for all spice shipments to Singapore and Hong Kong from May 7.

“Guidelines for EtO treatment have also been reiterated to all exporters,” officials noted, adding that at present there are no standards for EtO testing. 

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