India to nudge Iran to resume Basmati imports

By | December 31, 2016

NEW DELHI: India is readying to send a delegation to Iran to protect its big basmati rice market in the face of an aggressive campaign by Pakistan to paint the Indian variety as inferior.

The delegation comprising government officials and exporters will travel to Iran on January 27-29, Mohinder Pal Jindal, president of All India Rice Exporters Association, told ET. He said the industry is hopeful that Iran will lift the ban on imports of basmati rice from India that has been in place for the past four months.

“We have to counter other countries’ efforts because our share in Iran’s imports has fallen drastically,” said a government official, who did not wish to be identified.

Iran has been one of the largest importers of Indian basmati rice in recent years. But in 2015-16, however, basmati rice exports from India to Iran almost halved to $571 million from $1.1 billion in the previous financial year.

In the first half of this fiscal, basmati rice exports from India to Iran amounted to $356 million.

Both India and Pakistan have claimed geographical indication on aromatic long grained basmati rice, saying the variety is unique to the respective countries. Uruguay is another rice exporter to the West Asian country.

Iran has seen a spurt in trading ties with a large number of countries since January last year, when it was freed of economic sanctions imposed by the West for its nuclear programme. “We need to promote exports of basmati rice in Iran especially because other countries are aggressively promoting their varieties of rice,” said another official.

India is keen to quell any concerns over quality of its basmati rice even as Iran has strict preshipment quality checks for all imports.

“We need to dispel rumours about basmati rice which are being made by parties with vested interests,” said Rajen Sundaresan, executive director, All India Rice Exporters Association. “Iran is a stable but important market for us. They have not opened the permits for imports till now even though this should have happened in November.”

Iran has a permit system of imports. However, no major consignments have been shipped from India in the past six months. India is the leading exporter of basmati rice, having shipped 4.05 million tonnes of the aromatic long grain basmati rice worth Rs 22,718.44 crore in 2015-16.

The industry pegs exports to Iran at 1 million tonnes. Satish Goel, managing director of Shree Jagdamba Agrico Exports, which exports 50,000 tonnes of basmati rice to Iran annually, said that the country needs to dispel rumours that Indian rice is plastic. “Our image is being hampered and we need to put things in order,” he said.