India has been importing arecanut from countries such as the UAE and Singapore, data provided in the Lok Sabha by the Centre show.

Stakeholders in arecanut sector have been seeking a strict control on the import of arecanut, as they say the country is self-sufficient in its production.

In a written reply to the member of Parliament from Dakshina Kannada, Nalin Kumar Kateel, the Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Anupriya Patel, said the production of arecanut in the country was around 15.63 lakh tonnes during 2020-21. The country imported 23,988 tonnes of arecanut valued at ₹508.59 crore during the fiscal.

In the first 10 months of the current financial year 2021-22, India’s arecanut imports stood at 17,890 tonnes (provisional data) valued at ₹468.12 crore. This included imports from the countries such as the UAE and Singapore. The country imported 612 tonnes of arecanut valued at ₹12.28 crore from the UAE, and 93 tonnes of arecanut valued at ₹2.45 crore during the period.

Apart from the above countries, India also imported arecanut from countries such as Sri Lanka (9,076 tonnes valued at ₹283.53 crore), Indonesia (4,885 tonnes valued at ₹84.21 crore), Myanmar (2,882 tonnes valued at ₹76.75 crore), Malaysia (222 tonnes valued at ₹5.83 crore), and Nepal (120 tonnes valued at ₹3.07 crore) during April-January 2021-22.

Campco expresses concern

Expressing concerns over the import of arecanut, Kishore Kumar Kodgi, President of Central Arecanut and Cocoa Marketing and Processing Cooperative (Campco) Ltd, told BusinessLine that the UAE, Singapore and Nepal do not grow arecanut. However, import of arecanut from these countries is surprising.

“We feel that arecanut is illegally re-routed through these countries,” he said.

Stating that demand for Indian arecanut in domestic market is affected by cheaper imported goods, Kodgi said there is always a threat of illegal imports affecting the domestic market. Strict measures need to be in place to curb such illegal import of arecanut from other countries, he said.

He said the current production of arecanut in the country is sufficient to meet the needs of the domestic market.

Mentioning that the Prime Minister is stressing the need for aatmanirbharta in every sector, he said the import of arecanut impacts the domestic arecanut sector, which is already ‘aatmanirbhar’ (self-reliant) in production.

Control measures

On the steps taken to discourage the import of arecanut into the country, the Minister said arecanut import in the country is restricted by imposing an import duty of 100 per cent. However, the least-developed SAARC countries such as Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Afghanistan have been exempted from paying the whole of this import duty.

She also said Customs authorities have been advised to check the rules of origin with utmost care so as to ensure that arecanut grown in countries other than SAARC is not imported through the neighbouring countries taking advantage of import duty exemption under SAFTA.

Apart from this, minimum import price (MIP) has been imposed on arecanut to restrict the unabated import and to prevent entry of inferior quality arecanut into Indian market, destabilizing the domestic prices. Currently, the MIP is fixed at a CIF (cost, insurance and freight) value of ₹251 a kg. Import of arecanut below this value is prohibited.

She said that the FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) has advised its field offices to stringently adhere to the quality standards of arecanut before clearing the import consignments.