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Australian Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has announced that he is likely to visit India soon to negotiate a better deal for the country's farmer after New Delhi imposed higher tariff on imported chickpeas and lentils. Last month, India had imposed 30 per cent import duty on chickpeas (chana) and lentils (masoor) to protect domestic farmers from falling local rates in view of higher output. Littleproud said that an estimated 2 lakh tonnes of Australian chickpeas and lentils were on transit when the India announced the tariff. First, the Australian government wants to take a strategic approach to resolve the long-term trade issue with India besides looking at alternative markets to dispose of its pulses, he was quoted as saying by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation news. "I intend to make a trip to India in the coming 10 days to go and engage with my counterparts over there, as well as industry...," he said. The efforts will be made to ensure the tariff issue gets resolved and at the same time make sure that "we reinforce the need for a long-term sustainable free-trade agreement with India," Littleproud said. Noting that the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India was a high priority for Australia's farm sector, the Minister said the government was acting in a "sensible and responsible way" to ensure the issue does not become an "impediment" in the long term of progress of an FTA with India. "What we have to understand is we have a $ 2.7 billion trade surplus in the agriculture sector with India, so we have to be sensible about how we negotiate with India and we are doing that in a sensible way behind doors," he said. Since a billion-dollar industry of Australian producers has been affected, the Minister said that the Australian government was working hard behind the scenes to negotiate a better deal for its farmers. The Australian government is also looking at other markets such as Nepal, Iran and the UAE for its pulses sale. It is trying to make representation in those nations where the cargo is in transit now, he said. Stating that the 'Megaphone diplomacy' doesn't always work, Littleproud said, "We have to be sensible about this.
We have to play a long game about what will get us the long-term benefit that our producers want." Last month, Australian Trade Minister Steven Ciobo had made representations to the Indian government on the pulses issue. Ciobo is likely to raise the issue with Indian trade minister Suresh Prabhu at the World Economic Forum in Davos this month. During 2016-17, chickpea exports to India were valued at $1.14 billion and lentils were worth $ 196 million.