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Food Safety Standards for Export Of Indian Livestock Products

Raw meat assortment

On an average per year, average value of livestock products constitutes 6 % of Indian agricultural export earnings and 1% of total export earnings. Influx of foreign goods to the Indian market has raised some concern about the country’s livestock sector and dairy industry in the regime of WTO. Further, nutrient rich and high moisture fresh and frozen foods like livestock products pose food safety risks and affect the safety, health and regulatory measures.

The safety of the food is of utmost significance and has gained worldwide attention. Various issues associated with the product rejection on the basis of food safety and health standards are a matter of more concern today rather than earlier.  The reason behind is the developing countries are implementing risk analysis methodology, rigorous MRLs for chemicals, restrictions on the use of harmful chemicals and giving due attention to consumer health and food safety regulations.

 In western industrialized countries the concerns about safe food have been replaced with those of adequate food. International trade in food sector is governed by the agreement on the application of Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary Measures (SPS agreement) and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT). The agreements allows member nations to impose all measures or standards to protect human, animal, plant life and health, harmonize with the international standards, environmental protection, protection of consumers against deceptive practices and prevention of unjustifiable barriers to international trade. The continuous increase in international trade in food sector has been achievable partly through advances in food manufacturing and processing technology along with improvement in handling and transport facilities.

The food safety issues are of major concern while exporting food commodities from India, particularly to the developed countries. Major markets such as the US, EU and Japan have progressively stringent food safety requirements thereby emerging as a key challenges in the export of food commodities from the developing countries. Food safety measures proliferated and strengthened both in public and private sector during the last decade mainly in the industrialized countries. These are also becoming more stringent, especially SPS requirements such as maximum residue limit and levels of contamination. The number of SPS measures notified to the WTO has increased exponentially. These standards progressively evolve in the national, international and individual supply chains. Regional trade agreement and overall impact of Uruguay round agreements have reduced many tariffs and subsidy related constraints to free trade, encouraging increased production and export from the countries with the most cost effective production means. However, many exporting countries do not have the infrastructure to ensure high levels of hygienic food manufacture. 

Milk products Quantity in MT US$ Million % Growth on previous year

%age share

in 2017-18

Melted Butter (Ghee) 7,844.51 54.89 41.58 29.59
Butter 7,963.83 37.81 403.46 20.38
Skimmed Milk powder 11,307.88 33.53 -15.77 18.08
Other Cheese 4,028.26 17.74 -2.74 9.56
Processed Cheese  2,043.97 10.99 121.57 5.92
Other Milk Cream 1,692.38 6.77 27.50 3.65
Milk And Cream of A Fat Content Exceeding 1% not 6% 6,073.08 4.88 57.93 2.63
Other Milk And Cream Containing Added Sugar Or Other Sweetening Matter 1,260.87 4.64 -12.45 2.5
Fresh Cheese, Incl. Whey Cheese, & Curd 825.92 3.07 9.25 1.66
 Other Fats & Oils Derived From Milk 569.76 2.95 161.06 1.59
Butter oil 176.00 1.05 854.55 0.57

Overall, the country-wise export data shows that the animal products are exported to a number of developed and developing countries. In this view, India’s exports of various animal products are well-widen across different countries. This also implies that while exporting livestock products, India strictly follows the requirements and standards laid down by all its importing partners.  Still, India is a small player in global market in terms of livestock trade, although India ranks in the top tier of producers of various livestock commodities the contribution of Indian livestock products to world export is does not even 1 percent (exception are bovine meat and eggs).

India’s exports are spread across developed and developing country markets and it is facing issues even in developing country markets.  Therefore there is a need to identify and analyze the food safety issues raised by different markets

Not much information is available regarding the potential adverse effects of standards and technical regulations. Further, if the information on traded product is incomplete, the SPS and TBTs can enable trade by signaling that products are safe to the consumer. However, if these measures are used in a protective way, they have trade impeding effects (Disdier et al., 2008). Despite of that various steps should be taken vigorously to get compliance with the SPS measures to boost livestock export to the developed countries like USA, EU and Japan.

Export of livestock product can be enhanced by accessing the markets in the countries having less stringent food safety and quality standards. Growing awareness among consumers about the importance of food safety, emergence of disease by consuming unsafe food, and consumers increasing paying capacity in both domestic and international market could further tackle this issue.  Further, to enhance livestock exports – the cost of compliance, investment required, handling, processing and traceability of the products are some of the points that need to be emphasized. The rigorous efforts made by the government by prioritizing the livestock sector to achieve the desired growth in agri-sector have certainly enhanced the country’s exports of various livestock products to newer heights. India has been net exporter of meat and meat products over the past two decades with negligible dependence on import.

To fill the gaps in implementing SPS measures the Indian government has made some submissions in the SPS Committee.These are:

  • Unproductive Transparency provision of the SPS Agreement
  • Not enough time is given for raising objections to certain member countries
  • Inadequate information is given through notification procedure
  • A standard under what situation should be considered as an international standard is not correctly disclosed in the SPS Agreement
  • Standard setting procedures at CODEX, OIE and IPPC should be identical
  • Developing countries do not get adequate opportunity to respond to the proposed SPS measures and has advocated for reasonable interval between publication and coming into force of the SPS measure
  • Due to technical and financial constraints developing countries are unable to contribute effectively in standard setting process
  • SPS measures should be similar in countries where like situation exists and where immunity level of population is somewhat similar
  • Notification should contain information of risk estimation tactics and factors in determining appropriate level of SPS protection
  • Producers / exporters should be given adequate time to familiarize themselves to new SPS requirements of importing country
  • Stringent food safety standards are implemented in certain countries (Upadhaya, 2012)

US government further stated that several sanitary regulations implemented by India are not based on CODEX and OIE regulations (Zimmermann, 2007).

Implementing SPS measures in India are governed by various agencies. Central government (Government of India) plays a massive role in cases where exported products are banned on the basis of SPS requirements in other countries. In such circumstances the government can look up Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) of WTO. India is one of the active users (intense dispute activity shown in US) in most cases as defendant in WTO dispute settlement system. A structured procedure has been established in the SPS Agreement for settle down of disputed among members countries related to SPS measures that restrict trade.

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