Agri Business

Pepper growers’ bodies raise concerns over illegal imports from Vietnam

V.Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on February 18, 2019

 

The recent disclosure of a Sri Lankan Minister admitting to illegal supply of Vietnamese pepper into India from his country seems to have vindicated Indian pepper growers’ persistent stand on the issue.

The supply of Vietnamese pepper is happening by evading duty of 43 per cent as the import duty from Vietnam is 51 per cent against 8 per cent for Sri Lanka under the India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement. It thus circumvents the minimum import price of ₹500/kg fixed by India for pepper imports.

KK Vishwanath, co-ordinator of the Black Pepper Growers Organisation, told BusinessLine that these malpractices are happening due to the loopholes in the bilateral trade agreement between India and Sri Lanka. “The officials in the Commerce and Finance ministries have assured us that they will take up the case with their counterparts when the trade agreements get revised from time to time. We are anticipating an action plan from the departments with a novel mechanism to stop these malpractices once for all.”

He alleged that the racket of fake bills of landing from Sri Lanka takes place with the connivance of some Indian importers and they pay 8 per cent duty on the Vietnam pepper. Though the Commerce Ministry has brought extraordinary gazette notifications to safeguard the interest of genuine black pepper growers, the same was challenged in courts by the trading community, he said.

Kishore Shamji, coordinator, Kerala chapter of the Indian Pepper and Spice Traders, Growers, Planters Consortium, said: “We have already informed the government that around 2,000 tonnes of such pepper has left the Sri Lankan coast, which is over and above the pepper smuggled into India from Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal.”

Asked whether growers are chalking out any action plan in this election year, Shamji said: “We are just requesting the government to direct DGFT to look into the matter seriously as the country’s exchequer is losing import duty share.”

Published on February 18, 2019

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