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Recently, Rice Export Promotion Forum (REPF) has been set up by the Government to stimulate rice exports from India. The objective is to reach out to global stakeholders, create a chain supply of rice to attract buyers, and place firm foot at an international platform. With the forum, necessary steps shall be taken to monitor, identify, and anticipate all the developments and future risks, which will further help in formulating procedures and policies. Basmati and non-basmati products provide a competitive edge for India in comparison to wheat and Maize which have higher production costs. This Forum shall devise various solutions for rice stakeholders, exporters, and producers and create new opportunities though improved planning.
This REPF has been set under the aegis of Agricultural and Processed Foods Export Promotion Development Authority (APEDA) which was established in 1986 as the authority to facilitate the export of agricultural products and processed foods through a Single Window Clearance System and build a connection between Indian Producers and Global markets. Its main aim is to increase foreign earning by increasing product exports, providing fair income to farmers by selling commodities at competitive prices, providing employment opportunities in rural areas, and encouraging people to take initiatives by producing more farm products.
Why was the act introduced?
Earlier, there was no platform through which provisions of services, charges, terms, and conditions could be regulated for export of Agricultural products. Also, the interests of agricultural producers were in danger as no competitive authority was present to address their concerns.
No proper financial assistance was provided to farmers. The feasibility studies and surveys were lacking to understand which all products should be exported for better global standing and profits.
Transparency was required for knowing authorized exporters of scheduled products who also paid fees for registering their identities.Quality standards and fixing appropriate prices was important before selling products in global markets. Proper packaging and marketing of scheduled products for the creation of products into valuable assets for better impressions was also required.
It was necessary to inspect, control, and censor products like meat and other non-vegetarian products in slaughterhouses and farms so that no perished and degraded products reach overseas markets. Storage, processing, cutting, packing, cleaning, and transporting procedure was required to be taken under surveillance.
Data was required to be collected from various owners of factories or establishments about the quality and quantity of products. The requirements and needs of producers were also important to be considered before further steps.A nodal agency was needed which could communicate with foreign stakeholders and producers, thereby creating a smooth procedure for Indian producers and making formalities less strenuous.
Goods required proper identification of geographies pertinent in producing particular products and then final packaging without any hassle. From production to consumption, the processes had to be regulated by an authority that acted without any bias and carelessness.
Aims at Food Safety and standards: APEDA provides financial support to producers to encourage them to produce better quality meat, crops, etc. This ensures the health of consumers, leading to protruded faith in Government. Appropriate food standards are indeed indispensable for the creation of supply chains in foreign.
Facilitates cost saving methods: To prevent building up of onus of transportation costs and high storage, authority bears those costs required for the export of perishable products as soon as possible so that losses are not incurred. All approaches and initiatives are taken to help producers.
Helps in Progress after Production: Support to producers is not confined to the stage of food production only, but further levels also include packaging, price-fixing, marketing, etc. to ensure transparency in the export process along with a satisfaction to them.
Science, Research, and advancement oriented: APEDA tries to incorporate new technologies, advances equipment, tractors, production processes to speed up the export process and reduce the load on farmers and other agricultural producers. Research teams aim at enhancing the productivity element for better results.
Agricultural centres: Throughout the whole country, various training and production centres are being opened to identify which fruit, vegetable, crop, etc. can be grown efficiently in different geographical factors. Soil, weather, and humidity vary from place to place and affect the growth of products.
The APEDA, 1985 was further amended in 2009. According to Section 9, the ministries of Central Government dealing with agriculture and rural development, commerce, food, industry, finance, civil supplies, aviation, and transport shall be dealing with this particular act and carry out activities in consonance. The Government authorities shall appoint suitable committees for carrying out responsibilities and functions appended in this act.
Measures to be taken by authorities under the Act
Section 10 deals with the duties of authorities regarding the export of scheduled products. The development of industries is being taken up to facilitate the export of scheduled products with financial assistance schemes to producers. Surveys have to be undertaken along with feasibility studies for providing subsidies suitably. Also, equity capital is raised through joint ventures. Authorities must ensure standards of products by investigations. Surveillance for the efficiency of products, marketing, and production of statistics are also included in this regard. Section 10-A takes into consideration the protection of intellectual property rights attached to Special products inside and outside India.
Misconduct by authorities
Section 11 is embedded with the power of the Central Government to suspend authorities in case they are not able to perform their functions, abuse or exceed powers, or on purpose refuse to comply with terms of provisions, with a reasonable time to be given for explaining stance. Offices have to be vacated irrespective of remaining tenure. Till the establishment of a new authority, all the powers shall be vested with the Central government. On the expiry of supersession, the authority may be reconstituted.
Registration and inspection
According to Section 12, 13 and 14, registration shall be done by the person within 1 month of undertaking such export or within 3 months after commencement of this Act which will remain operative till cancellation. All the formalities and procedures have to be followed and the inspectors are required to check the processing plants, fields, and factories for surety and quality. The accuracy of production has to be satisfied for export purposes.
A separate fund exists for maintaining accounts of APEDA. Grants, loans, expenses by central and state government, collections, fees levied have to be taken into its ambit with prior approval by Central Government. It shall be used for loan repayment, administration expenses, meeting salaries, and welfare schemes. Proper accounts have to be maintained to keep expenses under check with consultation by Comptroller and Auditor General under Sections 16 and 18.
Central government’s control over authorities
Under section 19, certain restrictions and prohibitions are placed by the Government to control the export-import process. Customs Act, 1962 prohibits the export of certain goods that do not match national interest under section 11. The export of products takes place with caution, in compliance with the Customs Act. The penalty is faced by those producers who fail to notice such restrictions and try to violate provisions of law. Under section 21, a report has to be submitted to the Central government for transparency in audits and records at the end of the financial year.
Offences under the Act
Under section 25, if an offence is committed by a person authorized to carry out business, then he/she shall be liable and the same punishment will be applied to the Company. Negligence or connivance between managers, directors, or any other shall be punished accordingly if allegations are proved but if a person succeeds in proving that there was diligence on his/her part or there was no knowledge of that criminal action, then proceedings may be withdrawn.
Lastly, under section 30, the Central Government may impose or lift-off restrictions under this provision in the name of public interest under changing scenarios. Steps may also be taken for the development and welfare of producers and farmers.
Firstly, an International position has to be established under the Rice Export Promotion Forum for attracting stakeholders and Global producers. It could be done by maintaining the quality of both basmati and non-basmati rice without any deviation from standards. A proper inspection by APEDA authorities would immensely help in that aspect by investigating conditions of rice in factories and processing fields.
Secondly, proper assistance should be provided to producers in terms of financial and administrative expenses so that there remains no onus upon them, and work may be carried out freely with motivation. Moreover, transparency is required in conducting procedures of export for preventing bussing of corruption. Producers should be informed about prices without concealing any fact and a proper platform must be raised for selling products internationally.
Thirdly, authorities must ensure that adequate information about the geographical importance of crops has been imparted to avert any loss and wastage of time. Employment opportunities and more use of technology productively and fairly shall turn out to be a boom for agriculture. If farmers are imparted with knowledge of the export process, crop selling at the global platform, and APEDA’s role, then this will improve their vision.
Lastly, the separate funds which are created for APEDA may result in illegal accumulation of money for personal interest by authorities and it should be controlled by Central Government by ordering accurate reports every financial year without any delay and laxity. Nodal agencies must be kept under inspection by the Central government for preventing misuse of powers.
The chain of success of REPF starts from farmers and other producers as they are the ones on whom the quality of rice depends upon. If they are made aware of the importance of globalization and expansion of export business all over the world, then it would be really helpful to authorities in conducting functions of APEDA. A sense of motivation needs to be instilled in them by indulging in transparent methods with full disclosure of relevant factors of the export process. Competitive prices shall propel producers to grow more by making use of scientific tools, resulting in increased exports and profits with the shaping of India’s solid image internationally.
Therefore, the specialized setup for rice exports shall turn out to be more beneficial if the interest of all the stakeholders is taken into consideration, whether inside or outside the country. The skipping of relevant elements leads to an imbalance in business. From producer to exporting authority, the production and marketing chain must remain in function with effective and free communication. Ideas of individuals irrespective of the hierarchy are important for broadening the base of global export. This will ensure satisfaction to worldwide consumers, producers, and Government authorities.
Author: Ninisha Agrawal from Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab.
Editor: Yashika Gupta from Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala.