Wednesday, August 7, 2013


What a country where right hand does not know what its left hand is doing! That is India which is known universally as a country delighted with its indecisive bureaucracy and never ending redtapism! What else one can make out of the recent pepper export fiasco which locked up almost Rs 300 crore worth of black pepper for almost 6 months without doing any thing to either clear the consignment or reject it. The merry go around, passing the buck for this shameful episode continues while the country is burdened by heavy indebtedness vis-a-vis foreign exchange reserves! Here is a gist of the story as narrated by the helpless exporters whom even the government of India is unwilling to help! 

"NCDEX and a bunch of pepper traders from Madhya Pradesh are involved in probably the biggest-ever dispute in the the former's decade-long history over the poor quality of pepper delivered. In its letter to Prabhakar, KVA highlighted the five-month delay in testing black pepper sealed at NCDEX-authorised warehouses for traces of mineral oil. The net worth of the 6,800 tonne of pepper locked up at the warehouse at Rs 300 crore. When KVA filed a petition before the Indore bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court seeking a direction to the exchange to revoke an order directing the traders to take the delivery of pepper and deliver fresh pepper at current market prices. The association wants either wholesale pepper contracts amounting to Rs 300 crore scrapped or a new consignment of the commodity fit for human consumption delivered. After complaints from KVA, Kerala's food safety authority sealed the consignments of pepper mixed with mineral oil and delivered to the warehouse. The authority appointed the Spices Board of India to conduct the test on the entire stock rather than taking samples. P S S Thampi, chairman, Spices Board of India, said, "We have tested 1,000 tonne of pepper and already submitted our report to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India and now it is up to them to take further action." When quizzed, K V Thomas, minister of state (independent charge) for consumer affairs, food and public distribution, said, "Yes, I received a letter from KVA, but there is nothing I can do about it, and therefore the stocks of pepper have been sent to the Spices Board India, and they will do the needful."

The export trade is not entirely innocent if its past history is to be checked, with substandard and dubious quality commodities being exported bringing bad name to the country. But all traders cannot be blamed or punished for such fraudulent practices. In the present case detection of mineral oil, some traders use to improve the appearance of pepper corns, takes hardly a few minutes and why huge stocks are being sealed for months together is a serious matter. Government must book the guilty for dereliction of duty and compensate the exporters for the losses, if any incurred by them. With the Spices Board well equipped to carry out almost all tests required to clear export consignments, why such delays occur is a matter of serious concern and if necessary steps are not taken to prevent recurrence of such incidences, India may have to yield its preeminent position in spices exports to neighboring countries like Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia! 


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