Webinar: Resonating with the Indian Food and Drink Sector

By Kealan Finnegan

On 16 September, the UK India Business Council (UKIBC), in partnership with the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and the Forum of Indian Food Importers (FIFI), organised a webinar to educate UK businesses on UK-India food and drink trade opportunities and the industry’s regulatory landscape.

Chaired by Shubhi Mishra, UKIBC Head of Food & Drink Policy, Advocacy, and Trade Promotion, the discussion was led by Dr Amit Sharma, Director (Imports) at FSSAI, and moderated by Mr Amit Lohani, Founder and Director at FIFI. UKIBC Managing Director Kevin McCole gave the opening remarks and presented insight into UKIBC’s involvement in the Indian food and drink sector.

UKIBC appreciated the FSSAI’s recent progressive reforms, namely the draft standard for shea butter under product approval, provision for alcohol-free beer as a separate product category, and Hindi nomenclature for whole and refined wheat flour under labeling standards.

UKIBC went on to raise a number of issues on behalf of UK business, including:

  • The requirement of a Certificate of Analysis (CoA) for proprietary food items imported into India
  • The need for a Risk Management System (RMS) to remove the requirement of 100% sampling
  • Product approval for the food products, especially in nutraceuticals, which have not been standardised, but are otherwise used globally in international and EU markets

In addition to the above, UKIBC also highlighted the need to publish regulations/notifications where the FSSAI has assured verbal intervention.

Dr Sharma acknowledged enhancing the UK India trade partnership and assured FSSAI’s support in bringing essential reforms to further reinforcement. FSSAI is looking to implement a ‘Robust Port Control System’ which will set its standards globally. Dr Sharma also addressed the need for a CoA to be further considered and reviewed with regards to the extension of validity.

Dr Sharma re-emphasized the rectifiable labelling norms that can be completed at any port of entry itself, which has been reported to be of great benefit to exporters. Regarding the issue of product approval for ‘non-specified food and food ingredients’, FSSAI is meticulously analysing certain non-specified food products for international approval. FSSAI is also looking at ways this can be further standardised as per international norms within the next three months.

Following Dr Sharma’s address, his colleagues, Dr Ajay Garg, Deputy Director (Imports), and Anil Kapoor, Joint Director, gave a detailed update on the Food Import Clearance Process. Their presentation outlined the following points: the technical provisions relating to import, import entry points, the complete clearance process of imported food, the steps taken to streamline the process, FSSAI’s lab infrastructure, major food commodities imported in India, and the respective countries exporting to India.

Kevin McCole then highlighted UKIBC’s services in the UK India food and drink trade and investment corridor, the impact of COVID-19 on the Indian food and drink sector, and the subsequent key export opportunities for UK businesses in India.

Finally, Mr Lohani discussed insights on market entry strategy and tactical promotional outreach. The key export sectors mentioned in the current pandemic were organised and unorganised retail, food processing, e-commerce, hospitality, and travel retail and tourism. Mr Lohani examined the current trends and consumer patterns in India, and then went on to underline the positive affiliation of brand UK in India as a great strength. He noted the lack of a limited marketing budget by UK companies as a key challenge.

Mr Lohani, serving as a voice for Indian food importers, raised a few issues to the FSSAI regarding the challenges of rectifiable labelling at the port of entry, ‘Country of Origin (COO)’ certificates, ​ambiguity around the importation of certified organic products, and the nomenclature for milk substitutes while labelling.

Going forward, the UKIBC will work closely with FIFI to submit a joint representation on the issues discussed during this webinar to FSSAI. UKIBC will also follow up with FSSAI on the recently submitted concerns of UK businesses related to the CoA, RMS, and product approval for non-specified food items.

Many thanks to both FSSAI and FIFI for providing their time and resources for this webinar. If you were unable to join our session on the day, or would like to through the webcast again, we invite you to watch the webinar below for the discussion in full.

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