Vietnamese pepper hits home growers hard

It is making its way into India taking advantage of duty concessions and is sold at a cheap rate affecting local business

In September, the Kodagu police seized a large quantity of pepper from a godown in Gonikoppa after receiving a complaint that the trader was reportedly selling adulterated pepper at a cheap rate. Even as it awaits a report from the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), the Kodagu police said that preliminary investigation has revealed that the traders were selling pepper imported from Vietnam at a low price.

Pepper, produced cheaply in Vietnam, is finding its way into India through the duty concession to imports from Sri Lanka under the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement and hitting the pepper growers in south Indian States.

“Pepper is being imported from Vietnam through Sri Lanka for not only domestic consumption in India, but also for export to foreign countries as Indian pepper enjoys the reputation of being of a superior quality,” said M.Y. Honnur, Assistant Director, Spices Board of India, Shivamogga.

Under the Free Trade Agreement with Sri Lanka, duty-free import of spices is permitted. Duty-free imports are also allowed under the Advance Authorization Scheme for value addition and re-export.

Pepper farmers in Karnataka and neighbouring Kerala, two States accounting for the highest production of pepper in the country, were already suffering from a steep decline in prices on account of increase in production.

The spot price of pepper that was ₹660 per kg in Shivamogga and Sirsi markets in 2016 has now declined to ₹380. The price has slumped by around 43% in the past 13 months. Ravish Hegde, Managing Director of Totgars’ Co-operative Sale Society Limited, an Uttara Kannada-based co-operative society that procures pepper from farmers, said the cost of pepper production in Vietnam is 30% less than India.

With traders making use of the duty concessions for imports from Sri Lanka to bring Vietnam pepper, Mr. Hegde urged the government to put in place stringent measures to check such import and stabilise the price of pepper grown in India.

Though the Spices Board of India, which held the International Pepper Community’s 43rd session in Mysuru in 2014, had hinted that Karnataka could be overtaking Kerala as the country’s top producer of pepper, statistics shared by Directorate of Arecanut and Spices Development (DASD), Union government, indicate that Kerala has retained its numero uno position in pepper production.

According to Director of DASD Homey Cherian, Kerala produced 42,130 tonnes of pepper during 2015-16 against Karnataka’s 26,770 tonnes. During 2016-17, Kerala’s production came down to 40,370 tonnes while Karnataka’s production remained stagnant at 26,770 tonnes.

He said DASD had compiled the statistics from inputs made available by the Directorates of Economics and Statistics in Kerala and Karnataka.

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Printable version | Jul 14, 2020 1:31:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/vietnamese-pepper-hits-home-growers-hard/article19824728.ece

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