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Finance Minister rules out rollback of duty on newsprint, says move to give domestic industry level playing field

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman speaks in the Rajya Sabha during the Budget Session of Parliament, in New Delhi on Tuesday, July 23, 2019.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman speaks in the Rajya Sabha during the Budget Session of Parliament, in New Delhi on Tuesday, July 23, 2019.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Speaking in the Rajya Sabha, Nirmala Sitharaman said domestic newsprint manufacturers were finding it difficult to find buyers because the same was being imported.

Rejecting demands for the rollback of import duty on the paper used for printing newspapers, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday said the 10% customs duty on imported newsprint was a move to provide a level playing field for domestic manufacturers.

Replying to the debate on the Finance Bill 2019, which contained the tax proposal, in the Rajya Sabha, she said domestic newsprint manufacturers were finding it difficult to find buyers because the same was being imported.

“Basic Customs Duty on newsprint has been increased to provide a level playing field to domestic manufacturers. There is a capacity in this country to produce newsprint. But unfortunately, they are not able to get buyers because most of the newsprint is imported,” she said.

In the last few months, there has been a drastic fall in price overseas from $700 per tonne to $500 per tonne, she said, adding that the fall in global newsprint prices has affected the Indian manufacturers so badly that they are not able to find takers for their product.

“It does not make sense to talk about ‘Make in India’ but allow indirect imports. If we are trying to make the Indian industry survive this kind of onslaught, this is inevitable,” she said.

Ms. Sitharaman was responding to YSR-Congress leader V. Vijayasai Reddy, who during the debate stated that the duty would adversely impact small newspapers at a time when advertising revenue was also depleting.

“You cannot allow a fall in international prices adversely affect us when we have capacities. If we did not have capacities, I can fully understand,” the Minister said.

“Newsprint attracted basic customs duty even before 2009. We are not the first ones to put it here,” she added.

Earlier this month, the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) asked the government to withdraw the 10% customs duty imposed on newsprint, the uncoated paper used for the printing of newspapers, and lightweight-coated papers used for magazines.

“Publishers of newspapers and magazines are already reeling under severe financial pressure due to many factors like lower advertisement revenues, higher costs and digital onslaught from technological giants. Small and medium newspapers will go into deeper losses and many of them will be forced to close down,” it had said.

India’s newsprint consumption is around 2.5 million tonnes per annum, while the domestic industry’s manufacturing capacity is only 1 million tonnes. Also, there are no domestic manufacturers of uncoated and lightweight-coated paper.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 3:33:01 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/finance-minister-rules-out-rollback-of-duty-on-newsprint-says-move-to-give-domestic-industry-level-playing-field/article28689003.ece

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