According to FAIVM National General Secretary V K Bansal, this deadline would affect all food businesses that require an annual FSSAI License renewal, including firms from food manufacturers to processors to food service outlets and so on.
The fiscal year in India runs from March to March, and FSSAI licenses usually need to be renewed by April. But with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, food companies were unable to proceed with these renewals and FSSAI had previously postponed the renewal deadlines to June 18, then July 31, and finally to December 31.
Bansal has called for FSSAI to not just postpone these deadlines, but do away with them entirely given the dire situation in the country.
“There are two main reasons for making this argument, and both are COVID-19 related,” he told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“Firstly, due to the pandemic, [none] of the food business operators (FBOs) in India were able to submit their papers - Even Government officials responsible to collect the documents for renewal were desisting or avoiding to accept documents in view to contain spread of virus through documents [so none of the food firms] were in a position to get their FSSAI licence renewed.
“Secondly, India has been under official lockdown since the last week of March, [and] subsequent to this no one was ready to come out and [do anything]. There was no commercial transaction till July 2020 [for some of the businesses], and we don’t expect good business for the next one or two quarters either.
“So out of 12 months working period in the FY, the business community is not expecting normal business for more than three months. In such a scenario renewal for one year against actual working of three to four months is not justified.
“That is why we have requested FSSAI to waive the license renewal for one year, and even in FY2020-21, only 25% to 50% business is expected to return for many [businesses].”
The FSSAI license fee structure has different rates between INR 5,000 (US$66.84) and INR3,000 (US$40.10) for food manufacturers/millers and food service outlets. This may not seem like a large amount, but could make a big difference in India especially for smaller businesses.
For manufacturers, the INR5,000 fee applies for production of any food and beverage products (non-dairy) above 1MT per day, between 10,001 to 50,000 litres per day of milk or 501MY to 2,500 MT of milk solids per annum. INR3,000 applies for F&B production below 1MT, between 501 to 10,000 litres of milk per day, or 2.5MT to 500 MT of milk solids per annum.
“[In addition], FSSAI has an online system for license registration but until now this is not applicable for actually getting the license or any renewals which still needs to be done physically, [which would have been useful during the lockdown,” added Bansal.
“It is believed, and it was also conveyed to us during a meeting hosted by FSSAI, that a system for new application and renewal is being developed online - However this is still being awaited.”
FAIVM also wrote to FSSAI CEO Arun Singhal calling for the establishment of online systems to be accelerated.
“After the on-going pandemic, the Government of India is looking into the digitalisation of statutory Compliances, and endeavouring to use online methods for the submission of various reports and returns. We hope that FSSAI will also be following same intention and guidelines of the Government,” stated the letter, of which Bansal was a main signee.
Confident in complete removal
Bansal added that FAIVM is optimistic that FSSAI will ‘eventually’ remove the license renewals for the year given the circumstances.
“We are confident that FSSAI will eventually waive condition of renewal of FSSAI license for the current FY which ends on 31st March 2021 [given that lockdown is still ongoing],” he said.
“FAIVM is following up with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, which has original jurisdiction over FSSAI. We are also a part of the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India which is dedicated to look after the ease of doing business.
“We hope and believe that very soon we will have some good news in favour of the FBOs.”