Agri Business

Coconut product makers demand import duty on desiccated powder

V Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on June 25, 2019 Published on June 25, 2019
Fruits of labour: A coconut climber in Kozhikode. Coconut makes a daily appearance in local food

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Rising imports of desiccated coconut (DC) powder from Sri Lanka have prompted coconut product manufacturers to seek a minimum import price for the commodity as these shipments have been impacting the domestic industry in a big way.

“Their concern was genuine. As the Coconut Development Board figures reveal that DC powder imports from Sri Lanka have gone up manifold, touching 5,340 tonnes in 2018-19 as against 314 tonnes in the previous year,” an official said, attributing the unbridled imports to the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) under which the import duty is nil.

 

The rate of DC powder in Sri Lanka now is ₹90 a kg, whereas the Indian domestic prices were ruling at ₹150/kg in March, prompting food and confectionery production companies to look for cheaper imports, the sources said. DC powder is used as an ingredient in savoury and sweet recipes to impart coconut flavour.

India is a major producer of coconut globally and DC has evolved as a major value-added product. There was a time when the country exported more than 5,000 tonnes of DC powder. However, the trend has now reversed and the increase in raw nut prices has affected the export competitiveness of many coconut products, the officials said. Ganesh Kamath, Partner, Vittal Agro Industries, in Kanhangad, Kerala, told BusinessLine that several domestic entrepreneurs have taken up the issue with the government and requested them to take steps to curb such imports as these shipments lead to closure of local factories in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala which employ over 1 lakh people, especially women. It is also being imported in the guise of deflated coconut oil cake and copra oil cake, which has affected local coconut processing factories, he said.

There are also widespread imports of DC powder through incorrect declarations in the import bill as animal feed and low-fat DC powder after extracting milk and oil. A huge quantity of DC powder is being dumped in the Indian market through all major ports, he said. “We have requested the government to look into such wrong declarations as these products are widely mixing up with local brands, hampering the quality of DC powder available in the domestic market,” Kamath said, adding that such unregulated imports are also affecting raw nut prices in the domestic market.

Published on June 25, 2019
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