Government on Monday said it is considering elimination of import duties on a host of items, mainly food products, to improve their supply and rein in rising inflation.
“With international prices going to be steep, we are looking at cutting duties on many products, on food front, on edible oil and a whole range of products; in fact, bringing them to zero, if necessary,” Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath said in New Delhi, ahead of the crucial meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Prices.
On steel, which has witnessed a sharp rise in the past few months, Nath said the government would have to “calibrate duties to allow imports”. He said the demand from the construction industry for both steel and cement has to be met.
He added the Cabinet Committee on Prices would consider all these issues. Removal of export subsidy on sugar and cotton is also under active consideration of the government, Nath said. The government has already slashed import duty on edible oils, including palm oil, from 45 per cent to 20 per cent.
Besides, stringent conditions have been imposed on exports of non-Basmati rice, while export incentives under the Duty Entitlement Pass Book (DEPB) scheme on 40-50 items,
including steel and chemical products, have been withdrawn.
Inflation has touched a 13-month high of 6.68 per cent for the week ended March 15.
While the government had cut the customs duty on edible oil to control inflation, foreign suppliers jacked up their margins taking advantage of the shortages in the country, traders said.
Faced with a difficult task of checking price rise, attributed to global hardening trend, Finance Minister P Chidambaram had said in Mumbai on Friday that tackling inflation would be the top priority of government even if economic growth rate has to be sacrificed by a few percentage points.