Restricting betel nut import to Mangalore port upheld

Staff Reporter

MADURAI: The Madras High Court Bench here has upheld the Constitutional validity of a notification issued by the Director-General of Foreign Trade, restricting the import of betel nuts from South East Asian countries only through the Mangalore port.

Dismissing a batch of 20 writ petitions filed by betel nut importers and traders, Justice S. Nagamuthu held that allowing import through all ports would be detrimental to the interest of domestic producers concentrated in Karnataka and Kerala.

The judge agreed with Assistant Solicitor General C. Arul Vadivel that the restriction was rightly imposed to neutralise the cost incurred by the importers and the home growers for transporting the nuts to trade centres.

Produce insufficient

According to the Centre, around five lakh tonnes of betel nuts were grown annually on more than four lakh acres in Karnataka, Kerala and Assam.

The produce was not sufficient to meet the demand, so the government permitted import. Import and anti-dumping duties were levied on the goods to avoid an unhealthy competition between the importers and domestic producers. But the levy could not exceed the limit agreed among the member countries of the World Trade Organisation. Therefore, the Director-General, under the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry, felt that marketing should be dense near the geographical location where production was concentrated, and issued the notification on August 29.

Finding no illegality in the notification, Mr. Justice Nagamuthu said: “The government has to strike a balance between traders and producers. The producers can never be allowed to be the neglected lot of this country. Their interest is more vital.”