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The plant quarantine order in India

Amand Shah

Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, Room No. 233, Krishi Bhawan, Ra. Marg, New Delhi 110001, India; e-mail:


With a view to modernize, upgrade, standardize and enhance the somewhat outdated plant quarantine system, its capacities and the related legal and administrative framework, the Government of India has recently approved the notification of a new Plant Quarantine Order for the country. This new Order is a step forward in harmonizing India’s regulatory framework with the International Plant Protection Convention and internationally accepted standards and the tenets of the SPS Agreement of the World Trade Organization. Other supporting and managerial steps are also being taken to improve, to international standards, the entire gamut of the country’s quarantine activity and phytosanitary border controls, including import and export inspections, on-field surveillance for pests and vectors, treatment standards and processes, and certification methodology. India is making imports of plants and plant materials subject to pest risk analysis to protect its crops from risk of introduction of alien pests. Efforts are also under way to improve the export certification process and standards to ensure that such phytosanitary certification gives an assurance of freedom from quarantine and regulated pests and vectors, including alien species for importing countries. The details and features of the legislative and executive initiatives, and the rationale and methodology adopted are outlined in this paper.

Plant quarantine structure and policy in India

Plant quarantine operations in India are carried out by the Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine and Storage, which functions under the aegis of the Ministry of Agriculture. The administrative structure of plant quarantine is shown in the organizational chart (see figure 1).

The development of the new Plant Quarantine (Regulation of Import into India) Order, 2003 (referred to hereafter as “the new Order”) reflects the primary plant quarantine concerns of the Government of India. These are:

Before the new Order was gazetted on 18 November 2003, the hitherto existing plant quarantine statute and regulations dated back as early as 1914. Until recently, regulatory measures in India operated on the basis of The Destructive Insects and Pests Act, 1914, which was promulgated to prevent introduction and spread of destructive pests affecting crops, and the Plant, Fruits and Seeds (Regulation of Import into India) Order, 1989. Some other Rules were promulgated for regulating import of live insects (1941), fungi (1943) and cotton (1972).

The New Seed Policy, 1988 was formulated to provide Indian farmers with access to the best available seeds and planting material, domestic and imported.

Fig. 1: Organizational chart of Indian plant quarantine structure.

The Plants, Fruits and Seeds (Regulation of Import into India) Order, 1989, prohibiting and regulating the import into India of plants, plant materials and the like, is based on post-entry quarantine checks. It has now been replaced by the new Order of 2003.

Why a new plant quarantine regulation?

There were many reasons prompting the development of new legislative provisions for plant quarantine in India. They include the following:

Salient features of the new Order

The 2003 new Order for plant quarantine in India has widened the scope of plant quarantine activities with the incorporation of additional definitions. It also makes pest risk analysis a precondition for imports.

It places a prohibition on the import of commodities contaminated with weeds and/or alien species. Import of packaging material of plant origin is restricted unless the material has been treated.

The new Order includes provisions for regulating the import of:

Agricultural imports are now classified as: (a) prohibited plant species; (b) restricted species where import is permitted only by authorized institutions; (c) restricted species permitted only with additional declarations of freedom from quarantine pests and subject to specified treatment certifications; and (d) plant material imported for consumption or industrial processing permitted with normal phytosanitary certification.

A permit requirement is now enforced on imports of seeds, including flower seeds, propagating material and mushroom spawn cultures. Additional declarations are specified in the new Order for the import of 144 agricultural commodities, specifically listing as many as 590 quarantine pests and 61 weed species.

Notified points of entry have increased dramatically: there are now 130 such entry points, where previously there were 59. The new Order also rationalizes the structure of certification fees and inspection charges.

Harmony with the IPPC

India’s new Order for plant quarantine aligns with the framework of the International Plant Protection Convention in several important ways:

Issue of import permits

Features of the new regulation of imports include the following:

Enhancement of plant quarantine facilities

Various initiatives and activities are under way for upgrading and strengthening plant quarantine facilities:

Action plan for pest risk analysis

Pest risk analysis plays a key role in the new Order for plant quarantine in India. An action plan for pest risk analysis was drawn up, to take effect from December 2003. A major feature of the plan is the establishment of a national pest risk analysis unit.

The action plan includes organizing PRA training, establishing working groups and holding a workshop attended by national and international experts to prioritize crops and commodities for pest risk analysis. Some 36 commodities (see box) were selected for which a pest database is under development. Detailed pest risk analyses for these commodities have begun, with the aim of completing the pest risk analysis for 13 commodities each year.

India’s priority crops for pest risk analysis




musk melon




cashew nut



citrus fruits


red beans



black gram

green gram






baby corn

pearl millet






Chinese cabbage






rape seed

Policy for the control of invasive alien species in India and related policy initiatives

The national integrated pest management (IPM) programme is considered to be the mechanism with which to prevent and control the threat posed by invasive alien species within the country. State governments, non-governmental organizations, private sector organizations, research institutions and farmer self-help groups are all increasingly involved in the surveillance and detection of pests and diseases. They are capable of taking environmentally friendly corrective action within the IPM scheme.

International cooperation has helped in dealing with migratory locust, a pest of great concern for the Asian region. India maintains active coordination with FAO and with neighbouring countries for surveillance, early detection and control measures for locust. There was no major incidence reported in the region in 2003.

A peculiar cyclic problem, thankfully confined to a small hilly region of north-eastern India, relates to unexplained but sudden surges in rodent population and activity. The menace reaches peak proportions at the same time as the periodic gregarious flowering of bamboo. The problem has surfaced again and is likely to peak in 2006-2007 when the next mass flowering is predicted, causing crop losses. Research and preventive control measures under way include study of the rodent characteristics, damage capacity, pathways associated with the pest and an environmentally friendly control strategy. The traditional knowledge of the local agrarian community of the region is also utilized.

Of particular interest to India is research being conducted to study the impact of climate change on the threat posed by invasive alien species. The topic is of greater importance since a serious white woolly aphid infestation of the sugarcane crop in parts of peninsular India in 2002 caused substantial crop damage and losses. This pest had never before infested sugarcane in India.

The task of research, future prevention and control measures for white woolly aphid is being handled by the Ministry of Agriculture in coordination with other central government departments, concerned state governments, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, other research institutions and agriculture universities, private sector organizations and sugar factories. The severity of the white woolly aphid infestation, recorded in 2002 in over 200 000 ha of sugarcane, has subsequently reduced substantially. However, almost 75 000 ha of the crop was still infested in 2003 and the matter continues to be of concern.

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