Kochi: The Union commerce ministry is likely to consider the demand for imposing a 90-day time frame for re-export of imported coconut oil and has also ruled out any import duty cut on coconut, natural rubber, cardamom and cashew under the proposed free trade agreement (FTA) with Thailand.
Union minister of state for commerce Jairam Ramesh said the Coconut Development Board (CDB) under the ministry had expressed concern over the growing import of coconut oil, which had gone up to as much as 22,000 tonnes last year. Board chairperson Minnie Mathew said that along with the import of coconut oil, there was large-scale import of palm oil, a substitute edible oil, which had an adverse impact on the coconut oil industry. While coconut oil is priced around Rs60 a kg, palm oil is in the Rs35-40 range.
It was against this backdrop that CDB requested the Centre to impose a time frame within which the imported coconut oil was exported after value-addition, Mathew said.
She added that while imported spices have to be processed, value-added and exported within a 120-day period, no such limit had been fixed for coconut oil brought under the advanced licence scheme (ALS). Under this, imports are allowed without payment of customs duties subject to the material being exported later. Also, imports usually come in around the festive season, causing havoc in the market, she claimed.
The minister said the Centre would look into the request for a time-bound re-export obligation, under which the oil imported would have to be value-added and exported within a 90-day period.
Unlike coconut oil, popular as an edible oil only in Kerala and some parts of southern India, palm oil is used many parts of the country.
Concerned that import of palm oil had become a threat to the coconut oil industry, CDB proposed that palm oil be imported only through non-southern ports, which would make transport and sale of the commodity expensive in the southern region, where coconut oil is favoured for cooking purposes.
The minister said palm oil was an important item for the country and CDB’s demand would be looked at.
He also put to rest fears of a drop in import duties for coconut, natural rubber, cardamom (70%) and cashew (30%) under the proposed FTA with Thailand.
The four items are on the negative list and are Rs.absolute and non-negotiable’.
However, in the case of other commodities, it has been proposed that duties be brought down to 50% from the present 100% for tea and coffee and 70% for pepper, by 2018. These were crucial plantation crops and the interest of the country would be kept in mind before negotiating any changes in the duty structures for items on the positive list, the minister added.
The duty for crude palm oil was reduced from 60% to 50% on 13 April, while that of RBD (refined, bleached and deodorized) palm oil went from 67.5% to 50%, he said.