Around 400 Black Pepper growers from Kodagu, Chikmagalur,Hassan,Dakshina Kannada with Consortium of Black Pepper Growers Organisation (COPGO) staged a protest at the India Products (P) Ltd office at Queen’s Corner on Thursday claiming that the big traders in the pepper market were importing black pepper from Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Brazil at low costs, which had hit Indian black pepper growers hard. Pepper prices had crashed from Rs 600 to 300 per kg in the last two years, they said.
The Indian growers had approached the Commerce ministry. The ministry brought out a Minimum Import Price (MIP) notification fixing an import price of Rs 500 per kg to safeguard the interests of black pepper growers of India. But the big traders like India Products Private Limited, who alone import 28 percent of the total volume of pepper, had managed to circumvent the Commerce ministry notification by over-invoicing the prices of imports from Vietnam, the protesters alleged.
T M Poovayya, convenor (COPGO) disclosed that the traders, even after the notification, continued to import large quantities of pepper from Vietnam at Rs 200 per kg and then mix it with Indian pepper costing 320 per kg. This was then exported to the western countries at Rs 550 to 600 per kg. They made huge profits and also kept the prices of pepper low in India, he said.
“The traders are running this big racket ignoring the government notification. 550 tonnes of pepper was imported in May alone and that is a big volume. 155 tons out of 550 tons was imported by India Products Pvt Ltd,’’ said Poovayya.
“We have told India Products Pvt Limited today to stop this illegal practice. It is time the Enforcement Directorate intervenes and takes action against the offenders while providing relief to the Indian pepper growers who are hit badly, unable to sell their stocks at good prices,” said Poovayya.