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Spices body to seek cap on pepper imports

G.K. Nair

Kochi , Aug. 13

THE India Pepper and Spice Trade Association (IPSTA), piqued by the flooding of the domestic market with imported pepper and other spices from the SAARC countries at concessional duty, plans to urge the Kerala Chief Minister, Mr A.K. Antony, to take up the issue with the Centre to plug the loopholes in the Exim policy.

The IPSTA President, Mr Kishor Shamji, told Business Line that the Association would be submitting a memorandum to the Chief Minister for pursuing the issues with the Union Commerce Ministry in the interest of the spices growers.

He said the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the neighbouring countries had given added advantage to Sri Lanka to dump black pepper in to India, which resulted in domestic prices declining and thus depriving the farmers of better domestic prices.

Moreover, he said, under the FTA it had been noticed that quantities exported from the neighbouring countries were surpassing their exportable surpluses and "that is a clear indication that products from other countries are being dumped into India under SAARC agreement as well as the Indo-Sri Lankan pact".

Since "our extraction industry needs higher oil content pepper they are even ready to pay higher prices for immature pepper from Lanka," he said.

He said: "It will be ideal to cap or limit pepper imports from Sri Lanka to maximum of 2,000 tonnes and to monitor it properly by the Government authorities. It will be proper to channel all pepper imports through the Kochi port".

He said large quantities of cloves, cassia, cardamom, star aniseeds, arecanut besides black pepper and other spices were being imported into the country in large quantities either to re-export with positive value-addition or against already exported finished products of oil, oleoresin or garam masalas. Imported spices against already exported finished products were also eligible for resale in the domestic market due free, he alleged.

He said IPSTA had urged the Centre to look into these aspects of import-export policy advance licensing scheme.

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