In a major relief to value added pepper exporters, the Kerala High Court issued an interim stay on the minimum import price (MIP) of Rs 500 per kg imposed on black pepper imports.
The court observed that only the Central government had the power to issue notification framing or amending the Exim Policy under section 3 of the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act 1992.
The Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) had in March issued orders banning all consignments of pepper imported below MIP. The MIP was first introduced last December to protect domestic pepper growers who said rising imports were responsible for the sharp slump in pepper prices. But value-added pepper exporters, who import pepper for value addition and re-export the commodity, continued to bring in pepper by paying fines from December till March. DGFT issued a ban in March.
“We will appeal against the stay. We have also met the commerce minister and apprised him of the situation,” said KK Vishwanath, co-ordinator of Consortium of Black Pepper Growers Organisation.
Ever since the levy, MIP had become a bone of contention between the growers and exporters. Exporters like Kancor Ingredients and Synthite Industries, in their petition against MIP, contended that the total production of pepper in India was 35,000-60,000 tonne a year. The export requirement is 20,000 tonne.
Even when pepper production in the country had been at its maximum, it was not sufficient to meet the export requirement.