Indian Government Rules Out Changes in Food Packaging Norms

The government has said that there will not be any changes in its food packaging or labelling rules for imported American items.

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The rules mandate that MRP (Maximum Retail Price) and category be printed on the packet, and not just stickered on the packaging, as requested by the US, since the latter is prone to tampering.

Last Week a meeting took place between India’s commerce secretary and the deputy US trade representative to discuss the issue. At the meeting, the Government made it clear to the US authorities that the country’s labelling requirements, which are Codex-compliant, are applicable without any discrimination to all countries.

It is also important to note that the Codes Alimentarius Commission creates harmonised international food standards to ensure fair trading practices and to protect the health of all customers. The intergovernmental body is a joint initiative between WHO and the FAO (Food and Agriculture OrganisationAlex) of the United Nations.

What Both Sides Say About the Indian Government Position on Food Packaging & Labelling
An Indian official, speaking anonymously, said they have asked the U.S to let them know where they aren’t Codex-compliant. The official also said that when India exports to the US, the latter requires that the former print the MRP in dollars, and they would not accept the MRP if it was printed in euros.

The FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) also insists that all imported food packaging should have their types (Vegetarian / Non-Vegetarian) printed on the packets themselves and not on stickers, to deal with the issue of tampering.

The US has claimed that India’s standard packaging size is different from the one accepted internationally. However, an Indian department official said that the packaging standards of the country are the same for all imports coming from the whole world, and this means that India is not discriminating against any country. The official also claimed that when people intend to export to a country, they must abide by the importing country’s requirements.

The issue has already been discussed by Rita Teaotia, India’s Commerce Secretary, and Robert Holleyman, Deputy US Trade representative when they met to talk about the schedule for the next round of ministerial-level meetings of the TPF (Trade Policy Forum) in the US. In the meeting, Indian officials put forward a proposal to organize the 9th TPF meeting by the end of October. After the 8th TPF, a joint statement issued by both countries signalled some progress on the food packaging and labelling issue.

The Indian Packaging Export Market
India is the world’s third-largest packaging export market, with a value of US $6.8 billion in 2018. The number of packaging exports from India has grown at an annual growth rate of 9.1% between 2014 and 2018. The United States is the largest export market for Indian packaging products, accounting for 24% of total exports for 2018. India’s other major export markets include the UAE (16%), Saudi Arabia (13%), Bangladesh (13%), and Nepal (4%).

The main packaging exports are classed as primary packaging, which includes products such as bags, containers, and similar items. These products account for 69% of the total country’s exports in 2018. The other types of packaging products that are exported included flexible packaging (15%), labels and tags (11%), and metal packaging (5%).

The Indian Packaging Industry is forecast to increase export growth at a CAGR of 8.8% between 2019 and 2024, to reach a value of US $11.3 billion by 2024. The increasing demand from the international food and beverage sector is expected to be the main growth area over the forecast period. The food packaging industry, which includes the restaurant and takeaway markets, imports items including foil containers, personal care packaging, plastic items, packaging for restaurants, carrier bags, and others. In addition to this, the increasing e-commerce activity and growth are estimated to increase the packaging products demanded even more. The increases in disposable incomes and rapid urban growth are other factors that are expected to increase the overall demand for imports from India.

Both primary and flexible packaging is a very important parts of the export process for many products, particularly those that are fragile and perishable, such as fresh fruit, vegetables, confectionery, cereals, and other food fresh requirements. India’s export market will continue to grow and offer opportunities for foreign companies looking to enter the packaging industry. The country’s infrastructure is improving, which makes it easier to transport goods to and from the country and will add even more benefits to manufacturing materials from there.

Who is CODEX?
Codex is an international food standards body that was launched in 1963 by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and the World Health Organisation.

The mandate of the organisation is to protect public health whilst at the same time promoting fair practices in the food trade. Codex develops science-based food standards that are used internationally to ensure there is consistency in food quality and safety. The mandate covers all parts of the food industry from the agriculture process to the production of packaging, labelling, transportation, and storage. The standards set are voluntary, but most countries adopt them within their laws and regulations.

To read more articles about the packaging industry or Indian government visit our corporate website.

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