New Delhi: The commerce ministry has sent a delegation to Rotterdam to try and convince officials at the European port that Indian table grapes were being wrongly seized over the alleged presence of chemical preservatives.
“We have sent a delegation to assess the situation and suggest necessary action,” a senior commerce ministry official said on condition of anonymity. “They will also report how many containers of table grapes are actually languishing in the port.”
Commerce secretary Rahul Khullar said recently the government will take measures to resolve the matter soon. “Something is round the corner, wait till next week,” he said on 15 May.
India has been complaining that the European Union (EU) was creating non-trade barriers against its products. Brazil and India launched a trade dispute against the EU and the Netherlands at the World Trade Organization (WTO) earlier this month over the seizure of generic medicines in transit.
Medicine consignments have been held at European ports several times for alleged patent infringement. Both sides will now start consultations to resolve the issue, the first step in formally resolving WTO disputes.
The grape seizures have taken place even as a shortage has caused prices to surge.
“This year, the earthquake in Chile has impacted its export of grapes to Europe, thus driving up the price of table grapes in European markets,” said a government official who didn’t want to be named. “The European importers thus had to pay through their nose for table grapes from India, which are largely grown in the Baramati region of Maharashtra.”
The official said most containers have entered European markets without objection. However, some were blocked by importers claiming the presence of a chemical preservative called chlormequat. “The main intention was to pressurize the Indian exporters to bring down the cost of table grapes substantially,” the official said.
Indian grapes are exported mainly to the Netherlands, the UK, Germany, Bangladesh and the United Arab Emirates. In 2008-09, India exported grapes worth Rs408.6 crore, out of which those to the Netherlands amounted to Rs134.4 crore.
“I hope the issue has been articulated through the bilateral level. If India thinks the seizure is against the WTO norms, it may also seek consultation through WTO,” said Abhijit Das, deputy project coordinator and officer in charge of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) India programme.