Vigilance along the border will be stepped up, says Anand Sharma; Delegation of Karnataka MPs meet Sharad Pawar

Illegal shipments of arecanut into India through Bangladesh are a cause for concern and steps will be taken to tighten border vigilance, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said on Tuesday.

“What is legally permissible through Bangladesh border that we cannot stop. But the issue is illegal entry of arecanut via Bangladesh. It is a concern for us,” Mr. Sharma told PTI after a meeting with Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar.

Vigilance along the India-Bangladesh border would be stepped up to curb illegal shipments of arecanut, he said.

The Directorate-General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) would also take up the issue with customs authorities, he said.

Meeting

Mr. Pawar held a meeting on the issue with a delegation of Karnataka MPs, led by All-India Congress Committee general secretary Oscar Fernandes. Besides Mr. Sharma, Minister of State for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises K.H. Muniyappa was present at the meeting.

The delegation, in a memorandum to Mr. Pawar and Mr. Sharma, said since November 2011, India had allowed duty-free import of arecanut from least-developed nations of SAARC.

“It is learnt that over Rs. 500 crore-worth of inferior quality arecanut is imported into India from Indonesia through Bangladesh,” the memorandum said.

It sought a ban on arecanut imports and appointment of the Central Plantation Crops Research Institute as the nodal agency for identifying the country of origin and testing the quality of arecanut imported into the country.

Asked if the government would take steps to restrict arecanut imports, Mr. Sharma said,

“We have taken action last year by raising the minimum import price. We have also excluded traders and non-users from importing. We will try to bring the situation under control.”

Loan waiver sought

The delegation also demanded waiver of farm loans of arecanut growers with landholdings up to 4 hectares as the crop in Karnataka has been affected by yellow leaf disease. It demanded a special financial relief package to overcome debt burden of growers.

More In: Karnataka | National