The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India
(FSSAI) has instructed various nodal agencies and its offices across the country to check the import of pepper into the country. The authority feels pepper coming from Vietnam may be contaminated.
Raj Kumar, FSSAI’s joint director (imports), in a note to the various nodal agencies, said the authority had received information from the Department of Commerce that Vietnamese pepper, contaminated with high pesticide residue, may be diverted to India via Sri Lanka. He has asked officials to be vigilant about such imports.
The development comes at a time pepper growers have raised concerns over cheap and low-quality imports. The industry has requested the government to fix a minimum import price (MIP).
Nishant R Gurjer, an executive committee member of The United Planters’ Association of Southern India (Upasi) and a leading pepper planter, said while production had stagnated, domestic demand was growing. Domestic demand was growing at four per cent annually, with the current demand estimated at 60,000 tonnes per annum.
To utilise this opportunity, cheap pepper is coming from Vietnam through Sri Lanka, with whom India has signed a free trade agreement
(FTA). Cheap Vietnamese pepper coming into the system could be sold as Indian pepper, Gurjer said. According to reports, pepper imports in general attract a duty of 70 per cent. Under an Asean agreement, a duty of 54 per cent is levied on pepper imported from Vietnam. But pepper from Sri Lanka attracts a duty of just eight per cent, since it is a part of Safta
(South Asian Free Trade Area).