Reject proposal for import duty cut: Mani

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM Oct. 31. The Kerala Revenue Minister, K. M. Mani, has urged the Union Government not to accept the recommendation of the task force on indirect taxes to fix the maximum import duty on farm products at 150 per cent.

Mr. Mani told a news conference here today, that the task force recommendation would hurt States like Kerala engaged in production of commercial crops. The task force suggestion that there should be no further hike in import tariff on any commodity would also prove harmful to the State, he said.

The Revenue Minister pointed out that the import duty on commodities such as rubber was already quite low and, coming as it does at a time when the State is clamouring for a hike in the import duty, the task force recommendation would result in large-scale import of such commodities and a consequent fall in domestic prices.

Mr. Mani said the same would happen in the case of coconut oil and other edible oils, which enjoyed higher bound rate, if the import duty were to be pegged at 150 per cent. The State, he pointed out, had been demanding declaration of rubber and coir as farm products and said that if the demand was not acceptable to the Union Ministry of Commerce, that would also hurt the State's interests because the maximum duty that could be levied on them were 25 per cent.

The Revenue Minister urged the Centre to seek renegotiation of the import duty structure under Article 28 of the WTO charter. The Union Government, he said, had done this in the case of several commodities produced in North India. For instance, the Centre had gone in for re-negotiations to get the import duty on rice raised from zero to 80 per cent, that of wheat from zero to 100 per cent and that on millet and barley from zero to 70 per cent each. It should be possible to do the same in the case of commercial crops of Kerala, but the Central Government seemed to be trying to help someone else, he said.

Mr. Mani conceded that value addition was the only way out for the State.

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