The Solvent Extractors Association of India (SEA) has said that cheap import of edible oil from neighbouring countries under SAFTA at nil duty is hurting domestic farmers and industry. In view of this, SEA is following up this issue and has once again sent a memorandum to Suresh Prabhu, minister of state for commerce & industry, requesting for immediate action to check the huge import from SAFTA countries.
In a representation to the minister, the association has stated that they would like to draw his attention regarding recent trend of import of refined edible oil and vanaspati into India through SAFTA member countries such as Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh & Bhutan with nil import duty.
“On March 1, government increased duty on CPO from 33% to 48.4%. Subsequently, on June 14, duty on soft oils was also increased to 38.5%.The move to hike import duties was undertaken by the government to help farmers as it would provide support to domestic prices. Cheap imports through member countries are undermining the entire initiative of supporting the farmers as they have distorted domestic prices. This will in turn hurt domestic crops and farmers,” said B V Mehta, executive director of SEA.
“We understand last week some importers based at Haldia imported 10,000 tonne of refined soybean oil (vessel name Bertina) and it would be distributed not only in eastern India but also to other states. We further understand one more vessel carrying huge quantity of refined soybean oil is arriving at JNPT shortly. Also, a vessel at Chitagaon, under loading palmolein for Kandla/Mundra, will sail shortly. Due to huge margin, some traders are now trying to import through Sri Lanka under SAFTA at nil duty. Earlier, import was mainly through the border by road in small quantities but now coming in big way in vessel load by sea as flood gates have opened,” Mehta pointed out.
According to him, the cheap imports of refined oils and vanaspati from member countries are resulting in distorted domestic refined oil prices, leading to pressure on domestic crop prices and in turn hurting farmers’ income. The government also stands to lose revenue which may run into crores of rupees, he said, adding that Indian refiners will also face severe pressure as refined products are being imported under zero duty at the cost of Indian refining industry.