Import duty cuts on essentials harms farmers: unions

Published - August 22, 2023 04:12 am IST - New Delhi

The Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM-non-political) wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday urging him to reconsider a decision to decrease import duty on several essential items such as edible oil. The leaders of the SKM (non-political) alleged at a press conference that the Centre is supporting corporate control and cartelisation in agriculture trading which will hurt farmers and consumers. Farmers’ leaders such as Sivakumar Kakkaji, Jagjeet Singh Dhallewal, K.V. Biju, Rishipal Ambawta and Kurbur Santhakumar have signed the letter to Mr. Modi.

The farmers leaders said farm gate prices of all kinds of edible oil nuts are falling. “The main reason for the current price drop lies in the Central government’s slashing of import duty in September 2022 which was 5.5% for crude palm oil and soyabean oil and 12.5% for refined palm oil and soyabean oil,” they said adding that the landing price of imported crude soybean oil, sunflower oil and palm oil fell but the Centre reduced import duty on each of these oils. The farmers leaders targeted the Adani group, the biggest importer of crude edible oils.

They alleged that farmers are the most impacted by the import duty reduction on wheat which increases corporate profit. “Market prices of wheat were almost ₹ 3 lower than the declared MSP during the year 2017 to March 2019,” they said and added that the reduction in import duty shot up profit margins on branded wheat flour from companies like ITC, Cargill and Adani.

They said the Centre did an injustice to farmers by reducing import duties on food items which are grown here. “If the law on MSP guarantee and market intervention scheme (procurement at MSP) had been put in place, there would not have been such a huge price collapse of food commodities,” they said and urged the Centre to stop all free trade negotiations.

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