Concerned over a sharp drop in domestic pepper prices, the Centre on Wednesday imposed a minimum import price on the commodity at Rs 500 a kg to shield domestic growers.
The prices have crashed to Rs 300 a kg, from Rs 730 in the wake of cheaper imports from neighbouring countries. "Fixing of MIP will help in improving the domestic price, particularly when the harvesting season of pepper is fast approaching," the commerce ministry said.
In recent times, softness in prices has been a major concern among pepper growers. "Pepper prices have gone down by nearly 35 per cent in one year and resulted in a lot of hardships for pepper growers," the ministry said.
Since most of the pepper-producing countries are in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations region, there have also been apprehensions of pepper from these countries being routed through Sri Lanka taking advantage of lower duty under the South Asian Free-Trade Area and the India-Sri Lanka FTA for availing of concessional import duty, it said.
Farmers' associations have demanded tougher steps, including fixing of MIP for pepper, to prevent such in-bound shipments.