The State government will communicate its protest against the reduction of import duty on rubber to the Centre, Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac has said.

The Minister told a press conference here on Friday that the Central government had ignored the recommendation of its own committee in reducing the import duty to 7.5 per cent. The committee, appointed by the Centre to review the import policy and headed by the chairman of the Rubber Board, had suggested a duty of 20 per cent ad valorem. If the duty based on prevailing price was not available, importers had the choice of opting for a duty rate of Rs.20.46 a kg.

Under the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) trade agreement, India could impose duty of up to 25 per cent on rubber. However, the Centre had now chosen to bring it down to 7.5 per cent which would gravely affect the farmers of the State. Kerala should raise strong protest against that, he said.

The Minister said the domestic prices for rubber, which ruled at Rs.185 a kg, had dropped following the announcement of the reduction in duty. Current international prices of rubber ranged from Rs.150 a kg to Rs.155 a kg. So, it would be possible to import rubber at prices lower than in the domestic market. It was to be noted in this regard that domestic prices used to be 50 per cent higher than the international prices before the signing of the ASEAN agreement. The Centre was bringing down the duty rates under pressure from importers and exporters in other countries.

Sikkim lottery

Dr. Isaac said the Kerala government was examining whether the revival of authorisation of distributors of Sikkim lotteries communicated by the Sikkim government was correct. The communication did not say how the complaints that led to cancellation of the lotteries were rectified.

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