The agriculture ministry has asked its finance counterpart to properly verify whether the imported areca nut from SAARC nations is originally produced there with a view to contain cheap imports of the commodity, Parliament was informed on Tuesday.
Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said there were "sporadic" incidences of illegal import of areca nut from Myanmar and Nepal and the finance ministry has been requested to check the "rules of origin" to curb cheaper imports from SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) countries.
In trade parlance, an exporting country needs to show a certificate under norms of "rules of origin" to prove that the commodity or a product originates there. Rules of origin norms help in containing dumping of goods.
He said the Department of Revenue has been requested to check the "rules of origin" with "utmost care" so as to ensure that areca nut grown in other countries should not get exported to SAARC member nations by taking advantage of low import duty under South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA).
Domestic producers have time and again alleged that imports were increasing from neighbouring countries taking advantage of low import duty provided under SAFTA.
SAFTA was implemented in 2006 between India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
"Sporadic incidences of illegal import of areca nut into the country through Myanmar and Nepal have been reported. However, these incidences involve small quantity as compared to import of 18,152 MT of areca nut during 2018-19 in the country," the minister said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has also asked its field officers to stringently adhere to the quality standards of areca nut before clearing the import consignments.
Stating that the government has taken adequate measures to prevent import of cheap areca nut into the country, Tomar said import duty of 100 per cent has been imposed to protect domestic areca nut farmers.
Further, Minimum Import Price (MIP) has been fixed at Rs 251/ kg on areca nut and import of areca nut is prohibited, if the CIF (Cost, Insurance and Freight) value is below Rs 251/kg, he added.
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