Russian timber exporters fume at Indian fumigation rules

Moscow, June 9 (IANS) With investors’ mood turning positive after the Narendra Modi government came to power, Russian businessmen expect India’s archaic business rules to change in line with the global ones.

The business community also favoured the use of Astrakhan route for shipping products and to cut the transit time in a major way, V. Rajagopalan, general secretary of Indian Business Alliance, told a visiting IANS correspondent.

“We see a change in the attitude of Indian embassy officials here. They are now more proactive and have sought our views as to how we percive them and the ways they can improve to meet our needs,” he added.

A director in the $25 million Silverline Ventures Ltd that is involved in timber exports, Rajagopalan cited his own industry’s experience with regard to phyto-sanitary stipulations as an example of India’s “archaic” rules that need to be changed.

It beats logic as to why India insists on fumigation of timber with methyl bromide, a substance banned in many countries including Russia, he said.

“Fumigating containers carrying food items is understandable. But fumigating timber shipments after reduction in moisture content by heat treatment, in which all bugs die, is not understandable,” Rajagopalan said.

According to him, Indian rules stipulate that timber shipments be either fumigated or heat treated for 30 minutes at 56 degrees Celsius whereas his company did it at 65 degrees Celsius in a kiln to reduce the moisture content.

The matter has been taken up with the Indian embassy here for an early resolution, he remarked.

According to him, rules and regulations could be changed for better and faster business transactions as well.

Rajagopalan said if the rules were changed, exporters could directly ship their supplies to Indian manufacturers, rather than sending the logs to other importers who in turn sell to the Indian companies.

According to him, Russian timber was very good as trees grew slowly due to the cold climate and the wood too was very hard.

Russia has the largest forest cover in the world and hence there is good potential for timber exports to India, he added.

Educated in Madurai in Tamil Nadu in India, Rajagopalan – a chartered accountant – went to Moscow in 1995 as an employee of a Middle East-based company and then turned into an entrepreneur by shipping out timber and setting up timber mills in Siberia.

After selling off his timber mills, Rajagopalan is now making profits by exporting timber the world over.

Rajagopalan said the Indian business community was also hoping for an early start of shipments between Russia and India through the port in Astrakhan, a Russian city on the shores of Caspian Sea.

“A test container was sent from India to study the route and cost savings some time back. We do not know the status. It is better if Indian businessmen here are also taken into consultation,” said Rajagopalan, who came to Russia as a 26-year-old.

According to him, consignments sent via Astrakhan port are said to take around 14 days less than the 40-45 days taken by consignments at present.

He said shipments of automobile components are sent to Russia from India, apart from tea, pharma products and others.

As for his business in Russia, Rajagopalan said it was much safer now since the mafia had been nearly wiped out in Moscow.

“Earlier, we used to pay money to the mafia. But after Vladimir Putin came to power, the mafia menace has been eradicated,” Rajagopalan said.

Initially, shipping timber was difficult as shipping companies did not provide ships for carrying consignments of non-Russian exporters.

“I had to pay much higher freight charges as compared to the Russians,” Rajagopalan said.

After running timber mills for some years in Siberia, Rajagopalan decided to sell them off and restricted himself to trading.

(The writer was in Moscow for a nuclear power conference organised by Rosatom. Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at

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