Sobering season for liquor importers

Monday,September 1: The long drawn out drama of new labelling regulations shows no signs of abating. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has made it mandatory for imported foods and alcoholic beverages to list all their ingredients on the label, in Devanagari or English. The new labelling requirements, however, are not feasible for many international wine producers for whom India is a small market, observes Reva K. Singh. As if this were not enough, an imported wine also requires to be tested in “approved labs” in India.

According to a news report in The Financial Express on Friday, nearly 50 containers were stopped at the Mumbai port recently because they failed to meet the new labelling requirements. (Each container holds around 9,000 bottles). If FSSAI maintains the same position on labelling, the Indian market will become largely inaccessible, except for large exporters. India imports around 500,000 cases of wine annually.
Jagdish Holkar, chairman of the Indian Grape Processing Board, said the IGPB has been in touch with representatives of the international wine industry who are of the opinion that since wine is a natural product and is a single ingredient, labelling should be made simpler.
In addition, customs authorities say all labelling information should now be printed on the packaging itself and an affixed sticker is no longer permissible. … this could seriously affect the import of food products into India,” an EU spokesperson told FE.
Far from easing or facilitating imports, the new label standards make it worse. Importers have to report to three enforcement bodies — FSSAI, Legal Metrology and excise departments, which can be a lengthy process.
The local wine industry has its own set of problems. To address these, IGPB plans to meet with Industry members by September 10, reports the FE, and prepare a note that will go into appeal before the Union ministry.
A parallel report in The Economic Times today doesn’t hold out much hope either. You can expect the upcoming festive season of Dussehra and Diwali to be sober in more ways than one. Consignments worth Rs 70 crore have been held up prior to the festive season for not meeting labelling norms and the world’s two biggest liquor firms, Diageo and Pernod Ricard, have suspended shipments to India.

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