To curb cheap steel imports from China, Japan and Korea, the government is likely to restrict inward shipments to one port, apart from introducing a floor price for imports.
Sources in the steel ministry said since the idea is to make imports costlier, Mundra in Gujarat might be the preferred choice for steel imports, since it is geographically furthest from the Asian peers with surplus steel. Confining imports to one port would also help the government check the quality of the imported products from a single location, and also put a vigil on the invoiced price.
“We have already written to the finance ministry with the proposal to make imports mandatory from one port.
However, we have not received any communication so far from the North Block,” a steel ministry official said.
Steel imports to India have been galloping for quite some time now. After growing by over 70% last fiscal to 9.3 MT, in the first seven months to October, it has moderated a little and gone up by 42 % to 6.68 MT. Industry sources said steel from China, Japan and Korea are coming at $ 225-240 per tonne, which is much lower compared with the average manufacturing cost of Indian steel firms of around $350 a tonne.
Meanwhile, sources said the idea of imposing the minimum import price in the wake of growing imports could be a reality soon, but the persistent objection from the commerce ministry could also derail the proposal. The basis of the commerce ministry’s objection could stem from the apprehension that it might lead to illegal trade.
The government is reportedly mulling removing import restriction on marble to check over-invoicing by importers and consequent, illegal money flow. The special investigation team (SIT) constituted to examine the issue of black money in its report had pointed out that the MIP on the import of certain items such as marble has the potential for money-laundering and hence recommended immediate removal.
The government had imposed a 20% safeguard duty imposed in mid-September on certain categories of steel. But it failed to make much of a dent on rising imports. The inward shipments grew by 27.3% to stand at 1.183 MT in October over September, data compiled by the joint plant committee (JPC), a unit under the steel ministry, revealed.
India had imported 7.38 MT of steel in 2009-10, 6.66 MT in 2010-11, 6.86 MT in 2011-12, 7.93 MT in 2012-13 and 5.45 MT in 2013-14.