KOCHI: The consortium of pepper traders and growers has appealed to the Centre to limit the quantity of pepper that can be imported under south Asian free trade agreement (SAFTA) from Sri Lanka at concessional duty of 8% at 2500 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 2500 tonnes under SAFTA from Sri Lanka should be charged at 52% at par with other Asian countries,” Kishor Shamji, co-ordinator 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 2500 tonnes of pepper from Sri Lanka at zero duty under Indo-Sri lanka 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.

He also urged the government to look into the matter of large scale smuggling of Vietnam pepper into India from Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar by over invoicing it. “This involves evasion of GST and loss of revenue from 52% import duty imposed for Vietnam pepper.”

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