STC Number - 427

India's fumigation requirements for cashew nuts

Maintained by: India
Raised by: Madagascar; Senegal
Supported by: Burkina Faso; Colombia; Ghana; Kenya; Mali; Mozambique; Nigeria; Russian Federation; Togo; Ukraine; United States of America
First date raised: July 2017 G/SPS/R/87, paras. 4.11-4.13; See also STC 186; STC 417; STC 434
Dates subsequently raised: November 2017 (G/SPS/R/88, paras. 3.20-3.25)
July 2018 (G/SPS/R/92/Rev.1, paras. 4.40-4.47)
November 2018 (G/SPS/R/93, paras. 3.70-3.71)
March 2019 (G/SPS/R/94, paras. 3.110)
Number of times subsequently raised: 4
Relevant documents:
Products covered: 08013 - Cashew nuts:

Cashew nuts; Timber; Peas and Pulses
Primary subject keyword: Plant Health
Keywords: Pesticides; Plant health; Equivalence; International Standards / Harmonization
Status: Not reported
Solution:
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In July 2017, Senegal reported that since January 2017, India mandated the use of methyl bromide fumigation. However, Senegal noted that methyl bromide use had been discontinued by several countries because of its high toxicity and its negative effects on the ozone layer, as reflected in the Montreal Protocol. Senegal explained that it had abandoned the use of methyl bromide in 2002 and stressed that no cases of non-conformity with sanitary requirements had been detected. Senegal noted that in practice the restriction was not being enforced on products from Senegal, and thanked India for its cooperation, but underlined that the measure was still in force and its need for certainty for future shipments.
Burkina Faso, Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria and Togo reported that they were also affected by the measure. Togo further indicated that India had also notified of the required use of the fumigant for its timber exports. These Members invited India to apply the principle of equivalence and stressed the negative effects of the use of methyl bromide. The Russian Federation also expressed its interest in this concern and in the implementation of the measure.
India replied that relaxation of the measure had been extended up to 31 December 2017 to allow fumigation on arrival. India also directed Members to additional information available on the website http://www.agricoop.nic.in/. India requested Senegal to provide bio efficacy data to NPPO India regarding the effectiveness of alternative fumigants.

In November 2017, Senegal reiterated its concern over India's methyl bromide fumigation requirements for cashew nuts. Senegal noted that methyl bromide use had been discontinued by several countries due to its high toxicity and negative effects on the ozone layer. Senegal reported on the exchange of documents with India and scientific publications regarding the effectiveness of aluminium phosphate as an alternative fumigant, and urged India to accept its use.
The United States associated itself with the concern expressed by Senegal on the fumigation of imported products with methyl bromide, particularly as it affected peas and pulses. The United States expressed its commitment to continue to find alternatives to methyl bromide fumigation as a pest mitigation measure, and encouraged India to consider that methyl bromide was not necessary in cases of negligible pest risk.
Burkina Faso, Colombia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nigeria, Togo, and Ukraine shared Senegal's concern. Madagascar reported that it had held bilateral discussions with India on the fumigation requirement for agricultural products. Burkina Faso referred to its cashew nuts exports, urging India to accept the principle of equivalence in order to facilitate trade of agricultural products. Ukraine shared the concern as it prohibited the use of methyl bromide for fumigation and had therefore submitted alternatives to India. Togo urged India to accept aluminium phosphate as an alternative fumigant. Colombia supported the systemic concern on India's fumigation requirement and its environmental and trade implications.
India responded that its phytosanitary requirements were consistent with its WTO obligations. India reiterated that until 31 December 2017, agricultural imports from countries whose products could not be fumigated with methyl bromide at the port of export could be fumigated upon arrival in India. Finally, India had also made a formal request to Senegal for information to consider its request for alternative fumigants.
The United States commented that India had only responded to Senegal without providing a response to the concerns raised by other Members, and requested that India circulate a document with the fumigation requirement applicable to other Members, in particular to the United States.
India reiterated that its phytosanitary requirements were consistent with its WTO obligations and that the information was available on its official website http://www.agricoopnic.in.

In July 2018, Madagascar informed the Committee of its bilateral discussions with India regarding the fumigation of plant products exports and of the 26 June 2018 Memorandum of the Indian Undersecretary on the relaxation of fumigation regulations for imports of agricultural commodities. Madagascar reiterated its request that India officially recognise aluminium phosphide (phospine) as an equivalent product to methyl bromide for the fumigation of vegetable products for importation, in accordance with the IPPC's 2017 recommendations; grant African countries (including Madagascar) the same rights conferred to other Members to use phospine to fumigate their products exported to the Indian market; and finalise a Memorandum of Understating (MoU) with each African partner on the phytosanitary conditions applicable to exports of plant products, as it had with other trading partners (Mauritius and Russia). The current practice of the Indian Ministry of Agriculture to extend the export authorization for plant products every six months reduced predictability and did not comply with the SPS principle of transparency. Madagascar finally expressed its willingness to continue dialogue and trade with India, and its hope to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with India before the end of September 2018.

Senegal expressed appreciation to India for its collaboration on this issue, and hoped that, following positive bilateral consultations with India, the specific trade concern would be resolved.

Ukraine shared the concerns and thanked India for its efforts to reflect on alternative methods and for allowing a temporary extension. However, Ukraine expressed wished to find a permanent solution. Ukraine had provided scientific information regarding the efficacy of alternative fumigants to the Indian NPPO in December 2016 and during bilateral meetings on the margins of the SPS Committee meeting in July 2017. Ukraine requested clarification from India regarding exceptions granted to some countries and urged India to recognise alternative phytosanitary measures.

Kenya observed that India represented an important market for many countries, and expressed its willingness to find a pragmatic, global solution on this matter. Kenya also requested India to allow an alternative to methyl bromide.

Mali echoed the concerns expressed and invited India to review its measure.

Ghana requested India to provide further information regarding the agreement reached with Senegal and to extend it to other African countries.

India informed the Committee that cashew nuts had been shifted to Schedule VII of the Plant Quarantine (Regulation of Import into India) Order of 2003, by which pest-free consignments with a phytosanitary certificate could be ensured through various means by exporting countries. Methyl bromide fumigation was not the only means to do so, but if pest concerns were found in consignments upon arrival to India, methyl bromide fumigation was required. This was a general order, applicable to all trading partners. Regarding other agricultural products, India recalled that until 31 December 2018, agricultural imports from other countries, whose products had not been fumigated with methyl bromide at the port of export, could be fumigated upon arrival in India. India added that the Montreal Protocol allowed for the use of methyl bromide for quarantine purposes; and indicated that more information could be found on the website http://agricoop.nic.in/.

Regarding Madagascar's request, India regretted that Madagascar had provided generic information instead of scientific data to prove other fumigation molecules as effective against various stages of insects in imported consignments, soil nematodes and plant pathogens. India further reported that an Indian delegation had visited Madagascar in February 2018 and the issue had been further discussed with Madagascar's NPPO.

In November 2018, Ukraine reiterated its concern about India's fumigation requirements with methyl bromide on certain plant products, but expressed appreciation to India for providing temporary extensions to allow trade while alternative fumigation measures were under consideration. However, Ukraine looked forward to achieving a permanent resolution. Ukraine drew Members' attention on the IPPC "Recommendations on replacement or reduction of the use of Methyl Bromide as phytosanitary measure". Ukraine explained that phosphine was recommended as a replacement for grains, oil seeds, dried food stuff beverages including coffee, cocoa, herbs, tree nuts, fiber crops including cotton and others. In addition, Ukraine recalled that methyl bromide had not been listed under the State Register of Pesticides and Agrochemicals permitted for the used as fumigants for grains in Ukraine and could not be used for the export of grain shipment. Ukraine argued that according to Article 4 of the SPS Agreement exporting Members should recognize pest risk management measures that were alternatives to those initially required by importing Members. Ukraine added that in December 2016 it had submitted to India's National Plant Protection Organization the scientific information on the efficiency of application of alternative fumigants, including phosphine, and had provided further relevant scientific information during bilateral discussions held in July 2017 and 2018. Furthermore, Ukraine reported that India exempted some countries from the general fumigation requirements and also allowed the use of phosphine instead of methyl bromide. Ukraine requested India clarify these provisions and emphasised that these alleged practices were contrary to WTO rules, including the MFN principle. Finally, Ukraine encouraged India to implement less trade restrictive and more predictable SPS measures, pointing out that the 2017 IPPC recommendations on plant health and environmental protection would represent a reasonable alternative to India's current requirement to use methyl bromide.

India recalled that until 31 December 2018, agricultural imports from other countries, whose products had not been fumigated with methyl bromide at the port of export, could be fumigated upon arrival in India, and indicated that more information could be found on the website http://agricoop.nic.in/. India also added that the Montreal Protocol allowed for the use of methyl bromide for quarantine purposes. India explained that the Indian authority had received from Ukraine the request for consideration of alternative methods of fumigation, and reported that in its response to Ukraine, India had requested clarifications and data to be able to conduct further examinations on this matter. Finally, India expressed its commitment to keep working at the technical level to resolve this concern as well as to maintain an appropriate level of protection in accordance with the principles of the SPS Agreement.

In March 2019, Senegal informed the Committee that, with regards to STC No. 427 on India's fumigation requirement for cashew nuts, the technical consultations on alternatives to methyl bromide for post-harvest treatment had allowed agricultural product exports to the Indian market to continue without restrictions. Senegal and India envisaged a protocol to avoid non-compliance with phytosanitary requirements due to deficiencies in the procedures for quarantine treatments. Senegal highlighted that compliance with all provisions in pre-fumigation and fumigation of containers, using phosphine could be an alternative to methyl bromide.