Cardamom prices, exports down as Saudi Arabia tightens pesticide residue norms

Tightening of checks on pesticide residue by Saudi Arabia has hit Indian small cardamom exports, which in turn has pushed down the spice’s price in the local market. The average cardamom price that was hovering in the Rs 900-1,000 per kg range has slid to Rs 800, even as arrivals remained steady.

Saudi Arabia accounts for 90 per cent of cardamom shipments from India.

This decision to tighten monitoring of the shipments happened in the middle of April. Saudi Arabia, the fifth-largest importer of fresh vegetables from India, has said pesticide residues in the commodity are higher than permissible levels. It has threatened to take strong action in the near future.

In an advisory to the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), the government of Saudi Arabia said high levels of pesticide residues were detected in two consignments of green chilli. “If the situation persists, the government of KSA (Kingdom  of Saudi Arabia) will take strong action in the near future,” the advisory said.

As a result exports of cardamom and other spices to Saudi Arabia have slowed down.

Pesticide residue check is not mandatory to get the Spices Board’s certificate that accompanies shipments. Though pesticides are used in cardamom plantations, exporters were not worried about the residue earlier as Saudi Arabia did not insist on strict checks. It is learnt that the country has raised the inspection standard on all the food items.

Though Saudi Arabian authorities haven’t specified the permissible limit of pesticide residue, it is usually understood the specifications by the European Union are applicable. Specifications by Codex, as well as other global norms, are also understood to be applicable on fresh vegetable exports to Saudi Arabia.

Shekhar Ghosh is consulting editor, Indoasiancommodities.com. He has edited and written for publications like Business India, Business Standard, Business Today, Outlook and many other international publications. He can be reached at shekhar.ghosh@indoasiancommodities.in.

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