If the suggestion of a city-based cooperative finds takers, Mysore-based Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) could become the centre for testing the quality of imported arecanut.
This could prevent imports of substandard arecanut into the country.
Central Arecanut and Cocoa Marketing and Processing Cooperative Ltd. (CAMPCO) has urged Ghulam Nabi Azad, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, to appoint the CFTRI as an authority to test the quality of imported arecanut.
At present there is no government-authorised arecanut testing facility in the country.
Konkodi Padmanabha, president of the cooperative, has written to the Minister urging him to instruct the CFTRI to set standard specifications of the characteristics of imported arecanut.
“…We understand that till date there is no standard specification made available by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) for arecanut…,” Mr. Padmanabha said in the letter dated June 3. As a result authorities at ports and those in the Public Health departments were not in a position to judge the quality of imported arecanut effectively.
The letter pointed out that an Arecanut Research and Development Foundation (ARDF) analysis here found four samples of imported arecanut unfit for human consumption due to fungal growth. The samples were sent by the Customs Department, Araria, Bihar, and the Revenue Intelligence Department, Muzaffarpur. But a court ruled that the ARDF was not a legally authorised agency to certify the quality of imported arecanut and the consignments were released later.
A testing centre was all the more important as 85 per cent (53,263 tonnes) of the arecanut imports in 2012-13 were from Bangladesh alone, as revealed by Nalin Kumar Kateel, MP.
M. Suresh Bhandary, managing director of CAMPCO, told The Hindu that food products had standard specifications regarding fat content, acid insoluble ash, PH level, total plate count, etc. In the absence of such specifications for arecanut, one cannot be sure of the quality of imported varieties, Mr. Bhandary said.