India imported 30,271 tonnes of arecanut valued $118.45 million during the first eight months of 2023-24, according to a reply in the Lok Sabha.

To a query on arecanut imports, Anupriya Patel, Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, said the Customs field formations and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) under Central Board of Indirect Taxes (CBIC) as well as State commercial tax departments keep constant vigil for illicit transportation of arecanut into India through air, sea and land ports and take appropriate actions as per the provisions of law to prevent imports through adoption of various deceptive methods.

According to the reply, India imported 30,271 tonnes of arecanut valued $118.45 million during April-November 2023-24. India had imported 73,983 tonnes valued $258.19 million during 2022-23.

Illicit imports

On specific cases of arecanut illicitly transported into India through airports utilising domestic supply routes, the Minister said Customs field formations seized 14,188 tonnes of arecanut valued ₹0.56 crore in 12 cases during 2022-23, and 15,296 tonnes valued ₹0.52 crore in 2021-22.

The CBIC, through its field formations and DRI, keeps a strict vigil at the possible areas prone to illegal transportation of arecanut and take appropriate action in accordance with the provisions of the Customs Act 1962, she said.

To restrict the illegal import of arecanut into the country and to protect the interest of the domestic arecanut growers has taken measures. These include stringent adherence of quality standards by field offices of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) before clearing the import consignments.

Strict examination of the ‘Rule of Origin’ of arecanut by Customs field formations to ensure that arecanut grown in countries other than SAARC is not imported through the neighbouring countries taking advantage of import duty exemption under trade agreements.

Import of arecanut into the country is restricted through an import duty of 100 per cent.

The Minister said the Government has also revised minimum import price (MIP) to curb the import of into the country and thus to prevent entry of inferior quality arecanut into Indian markets and destabilizing the domestic prices. Accordingly, import of arecanuts is ‘prohibited’ if if CIF (cost, insurance and freight) value is less than ₹351 a kg.

However, the MIP conditions shall not be applicable for imports by 100 per cent export-oriented units and units in the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) subject to the condition that no domestic tariff area sale is allowed.