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Limit Lankan pepper imported under Safta:Pepper consortium

Kochi: The consortium of pepper traders and growers has appealed to the Centre to limit the quantity of pepper that can be imported under the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (Safta) from Sri Lanka at a concessional duty of 8 per cent at 2,500 tonnes. 

India earlier this year had imposed a minimum import price of Rs 500 per kg on pepper to protect domestic pepper farmers. The Kerala Chapter of Indian Pepper and Spices Traders, Growers, Planters Consortium said Sri Lanka has circumvented this by buying Vietnam pepper at low prices, adding value and dumping it in India as its own pepper. “So, any import above 2,500 tonnes under SAFTA from Sri Lanka should be charged at 52 per cent at par with other Asian countries,” Kishor Shamji, coordinator of the consortium said. 

Both these agreements were signed when the Sri Lankan production was pegged at 10,000 tonnes. Now it is claimed to have touched 25,000 tonnes, Shamji pointed out. 

The extraction industry in India is already importing 10,000 tonnes with high piperine content under advance licence scheme. Besides, India is allowed to import 2,500 tonnes of pepper from Sri Lanka at zero duty under Indo Srilanka Free Trade Agreement (ISFTA) for domestic consumption. The imports under SAFTA at concessional duty is happening over and above this pushing down the domestic prices, Shamji said. 

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