Domestic turmeric trade unfazed by Lanka ban

Gayathri GR Sundaram Chennai/Erode | Updated on November 20, 2020

Even as neighbouring Sri Lanka has banned imports of Indian turmeric, the trade here seems to be unfazed.

The Sri Lankan government banned turmeric imports in December 2019 to encourage local production of the spice crop and to protect small and medium-size businesses.

A section of traders said there won’t be much impact as Indian production is seen lower this year and the cost-conscious Lankan market prefers only cheaper varieties.

To meet its annual domestic demand estimated at 7,000 tonnes, Sri Lanka imports nearly 5,000 tonnes of turmeric from India.

India produced 9.39 lakh tonnes in 2019-20, down from the 9.5 lakh tonnes it produced the previous year, according to Spices Board data. Also, both domestic and export demand is on the rise thanks to the immunity booster tag attached to the spice and Indian exporters have got robust orders from West Asia, the US, the EU and even Bangladesh.

Consignments stuck

But there seems to be no relief for the consignments that are already stuck in Colombo Port. Even as scores of turmeric shipments remain stalled, it is now being alleged that those containers that had been given NOC by Customs officials were also not allowed to be wheeled out.

Totally, 56 turmeric containers from India are stalled at Colombo Port. A Thoothukudi-based exporter told BusinessLine that his 33 containers (approximately 600 tonnes), worth ₹6 crore, are stuck there since May. “Not only we (India) are affected, even the Sri Lankan government is losing nearly ₹30 crore revenue. And this has resulted in smuggling of the spice into the country via boats in the East coast,” he said.

Though the island-nation has banned other spices, including pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace and cardamom, the turmeric ban is more impactful.

Rajamanickkam, a turmeric trader at Erode, said the traders have made representations to the Central government to arrange for the export of stalled turmeric to some other countries or make Sri Lanka accept the consignments.

Sathyamurthy, Secretary, Erode Turmeric Merchants and Godown Owners Association, said, “Because of the ban by Sri Lanka, a minimum of ₹50 crore worth turmeric could not be exported from Erode.”

Published on November 20, 2020

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