US wheat not fit to be imported Times of India expose
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US wheat not fit to be imported
Contains 19 Weeds That Are Dangerous: ReportNitin Sethi | TNN TOI Page 19. July16, 2007New Delhi: A crucial report concluding that US wheat is not fit to be imported is being kept under wraps by a government that doesnt want to annoy the Americans at a time of blossoming bilateral ties despite the stalemated nuclear deal.
The report, prepared by a team of Indian officials visiting the US in May 2007, has recorded the presence of 19 invasive weeds that Indian regulations consider dangerous and require quarantine. Another two that India still has not verified for their ability to cause harm have also been found to be associated with US wheat. It has also recorded leakages in the processing of wheat that allows the weeds to escape in the consignments.
The report, which TOI got access to from government records, makes it clear why the US administration is putting up such a shrill campaign for lowering the conditions that currently disqualify US wheat from import.
The finding marks a setback to US efforts to find a market for its farmers that grow wheat on 60 million hectares and export almost half of the produce. With India showing interest in importing 3-5 million tonnes of wheat this year, US looks upon it as a loss of a big business opportunity. Last year too, the US was unable to export its wheat to India because of the tight safety regulations. This year, however, the US was expecting the tide to change in its favour with a concerted level of lobbying. But so far India has denied any possibility of lowering the safety measures in order to allow import from US.
The report noted that Indian regulations demand that there be less than 100 quarantine weed seeds in a 200-kg sample whereas US is demanding that India allow 12,000 quarantined weed seeds per 200 kg of wheat. The visiting team also found on inspection at the Columbia Grain Export Facility, US, that a lot of weed seeds, including those of quarantine, still remain in the final processed product...
Usually, India has a zero tolerance policy against any weed that is on the quarantine list but the government modified the rules last year in order to import wheat and allowed 100 weed seeds per 200 kg as an exception, keeping national food security in mind.
But food-security issues are raked up by the history of contaminated imports as well that earlier hit Indian economy and agriculture quite hard. Phalaris minor or canary grass, which is known to cause 15-50% yield losses in Indian wheat, was introduced in 1961 from Mexico through contaminated foodgrain. Back-of-theenvelope estimates suggest that in Punjab and Haryana alone, the economic losses because of the weed run into Rs 3,700 crore annually.
Another weed, Parthenium Hysteophorus, also introduced to India with import of contaminated wheat import, is today spread over 7-8 million hectares of non-cropped area and estimates show could take up to Rs 1,600 crore to control. India has also suggested to US to undertake adequate cleaning as a mitigation measure by which it can comply with Indian standards. The expert team noted that there was considerable potential to reduce weed content in the US wheat but the Americans have shown reluctance at the moment.
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