A recently held meeting of Forum of Indian Food Importers (FIFI), an apex body representing Indian food importers, and Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), at New Delhi, discussed challenges faced by food importers in India.
Amit Lohani, co-founder-director, FIFI, presented an extensive presentation on the issues of PADR, new products, labelling, and new draft imports. He said, “There should be clear guidelines, the same must be intimated to the state level authorities well in advance so that no hassle comes in the way of trade.”
He added, “The new Pre Arrival Document Review (PADR) system which is being developed by the government should approve the consignments before it is shipped to India. It will be beneficial for the importers as it will reduce the time consumed at the point of entry.”
He pointed out, “There are also other challenges like storage which should be taken care of. The importer has to ensure that the consignment of which the samples are under tests should get proper storage. For example, for perishable commodities, we need cold storage. Earlier, many food importers in the industry have suffered huge losses at this stage.”
Meanwhile, Ashish Bahuguna, chairman, FSSAI, who was present at the meet, stated, “Due to lack of proper infrastructure and lab facilities, currently importers face a lot of problems in importing many perishable food items. To make the process faster, there is need for more and more NABL accredited labs which will help in providing faster result.”
He added, “FSSAI would arrange land for FIFI to set up cold chain and laboratory which would help in the process. FSSAI is also trying to minimise repeated submission of documents while fee renewal process.”
He further stated, “FSSAI is planning to have a single-window clearance for all imported material and the information with this regard would be made available online. Information about all the cleared products along with the trader, country of origin, manufacturer would be available on the Internet.”
On a concluding note, Bahuguna stated, “Importers should focus more on the quality rather than the quantity.”
Meanwhile, giving details on import clearance, B K Dubey, director, imports, FSSAI, commented: “The fact that import clearance by FSSAI is around 98.7% annually. The minuscule per cent of rejection is due to non-compliance of rules that are set for importers.”
He stated, “FSSAI is now also maintaining the timeframe set for import clearances.” He explained that major delay occurs due to delay in filing the process and payment by Custom House Agent (CHA) in the system of FSSAI. To avoid delays, importers may file PADR 30 days in advance, which will be implemented at the earliest. After implementation of PADR, importers can file bill of entry and it gets transferred to Customs on real-time basis. “Then immediately sample is taken and sent to laboratory for testing. In such cases the only time taken to clear is the time taken for testing. This testing time may however vary commodity wise,” Dubey added.
Later, in interactions, Bahuguna assured quicker action to streamline the process with regard to imports. Lohani supported him and stated, “The FSSAI is working to come up with industry-friendly norms. We have to wait and allow some time to the authority and trust them.”