Pepper growers in India are becoming wary of the rising imports especially from Sri Lanka vis-a-vis other pepper-producing countries.

While total pepper imports from other countries reported only a 2.56 per cent rise at 22,071 tonnes in 2020 against 21,518 tonnes in 2019, the shipments from the island nation have registered a 30 per cent rise at 4,017 tonnes in 2020 against 3,014 tonnes in the previous year.

With reported currency devaluation in Sri Lanka, growers fear that there could be a free fall of imports into India. Indian pepper harvest for the current crop season has already commenced with the expectation of around 65,000 tonnes of production.

Govt intervention

Kishore Shamji, coordinator, Indian Pepper and Spice Traders Growers Planters Consortium – Kerala Chapter, requested the government’s intervention in the matter so as to ensure that Sri Lankan pepper consignments would not hurt the interests of domestic growers. Sri Lankan imports comes under SAFTA with 8 per cent duty and Indo Sri Lankan FTA at nil duty at a minimum import price of ₹500 per kg for the domestic market. He said that Sri Lankan pepper prices are hovering in the range of ₹275 per kg whereas the average Indian price realisation was ₹325.

Quoting IPC figure, he said that Sri Lankan production in 2021 is expected in the range of 37,000 tonnes with the previous year’s carry forward stock of 12,559 tonnes. The production in 2020 was 20,000 tonnes with a carry forward stock of 9,800 tonnes. The harvest of 2021 crop is expected at any time in April, he added.

He attributed the reasons for lower imports from other pepper-producing countries to the increase in prices above $2,000 per tonne. Moreover, the carry-over stocks in many countries are on the rise due to lower price realisation in previous years.

Global demand

However, the pepper demand is on the rise globally due to increased consumption for various requirements, such as an immunity booster in the midst of a Covid-19 pandemic, said growers.

A spokesman of the All India Spices Exporters Forum said that the export industry has not seen any major impact on the rising imports, as whatever comes for re-exports have been more or less the same. However, the rise in imports could be seen in the backdrop of increased demand for the commodity in the domestic market.