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“Black Gold” is selling at all-time low of Rs 300 a kg 

This harvest season, it’s a pall of gloom over pepper farms of Wayanad-Nilgiri-Coorg region where there are few buyers. The “black gold” is selling at an all-time low of Rs 300 a kg in the market as it has lost its sheen.

Though the harvest projections are high, experts see that the production of South Indian pepper would be just around 30,000 tonnes and the uncontrolled flow of the commodity from Vietnam into the country continues under various trade treaties.

Traders lament that they are unable to sell out even two tonnes as the market is flooded with low-cost Vietnam pepper through Sri Lanka.

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The duty on spices imports from Sri Lanka is only 8 per cent while the same to Nepal is free under the South Asian Free Trade Area or Safta agreement.

Though the Union commerce ministry had fixed a minimum import price (MIP) of Rs 500, it failed as they took illegal route and several companies got relaxation for imports.   

The price of pepper which was around Rs 670 per kg in December 2016, crashed to Rs 375 in December 2017 and further went down below Rs 350 since.

Anil Kottaram, a trader, said there was a jump in price after fixing the MIP, but some behind the curtain move reversed it in no time.

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“Now the traders are not even able to sell around five tonnes as fake news on arriving containers from Vietnam made buyers wait expecting a price fall,” 

Traders also are afraid of hawala racketeers involving in the pepper trade as the market is quite unpredictable. Many shiploads that land in Kolkata port addressed to Nepal are diverted to the north Indian market.

The consumption of the nation itself is around 60,000 tonnes, and if the illegal inflow were checked, farmers would have got a better price.

Kishore Shamji of Indian Pepper and Spice Traders, Growers and Planters Consortium, Kerala Chapter, said a major threat is the trade treaty with Sri Lanka.

“Pepper from Vietnam come directly to Indian port while only documents travel to Sri Lanka to be stamped”.

Meanwhile, farmers’ organisations allege that soon after the Karnataka elections the NDA regime green signalled the import license for 78 pepper processing companies for value addition.

They can import up to 30,000 tonnes annually.

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Source: Deccan Chronicle

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