Concerned over a sharp drop in domestic pepper prices, the Centre today imposed a minimum import price on the commodity at Rs 500 per kg to shield domestic growers. The prices have crashed to Rs 300 per kg from Rs 730 in the wake of cheaper imports from neighbouring countries. In an official statement, the commerce ministry said it has set the minimum import price (MIP) on pepper at Rs 500 per kg as proposed by the Spices Board to protect the interest of domestic cultivators. "Fixing of MIP will help in improving the domestic price, particularly when the harvesting season of pepper is fast approaching," the ministry said. In recent times, the price softness 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 ASEAN region, there have also been apprehensions of pepper from these countries being routed through Sri Lanka taking advantage of lower duty under SAFTA (South Asian Free Trade Area) and ISLFTA (India-Sri Lanka FTA) for availing concessional import duty, it said. Farmers' associations have demanded tougher steps, including fixing of MIP for pepper, to prevent such in-bound shipments. Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had recently met Union Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu and made a case for curbs on pepper imports. Karnataka and Kerala are the leading pepper producing states in the country.
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