Import Duty Current Affairs - 2019

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Centre increases Wheat Import Duty by 40%

With wheat production at record high, government has raised import duty on wheat from existing 30% to 40% to support local farmers interest. The higher duty will help offtake of domestically produced grain by discouraging milers to import wheat but to buy local produce and help protect farm prices. The oversupply in domestic market due to back to back bumper production of food grains has put wheat prices under pressure.

Key Highlights

  • India’s wheat production for 2018-19 crop year (which runs from July to June) is 2% higher than 2018, at a recored production of 99.12 million tonnes.
  • Food Corporation of India (FCI) which holds government’s wheat stocks already had 16.99 million tonnes in April and after next purchase by government its stock could reach 57  million tonnes by May end.
  • Reason for bumper production: In a bid to improve farm income government raised minimum support price (MSP) of wheat (rate at which FCI buys from farmers) by 6% (Rs.1,840 per 100 kg for 2019), which acted as a benchmark for open market in wheat.
  • For similar bumper crop in 2018, government increased import duty on wheat from 20% to 30% which resulted in sharp drop in wheat import.
  • In past India has imported wheat from Australia, Ukraine and Russia, but with global prices in addition to 40% duty would make import virtually impossible.
  • Earlier, in concern of its farm duty rates as well as on subsidies it gives to farmers,
  • In past Australia has taken India to WTO’s arbitration panel on its farm duty rates and subsidies given to farmers, but it hardly affects because India by right can raise duties on wheat up to 80% under a bound rate agreement it has signed at WTO.

Wheat

Wheat is India’s staple food, placed second to rice. Uttar Pradesh is the largest wheat producing state in India followed by Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh. India is second largest producer of wheat in the world. China is world’s largest producer, followed by India, Russia, and the United states.

Food Corporation of India

It is a statutory non-profit organization founded and run by Government of India and also run by state Governments. It was created in 1965 under Food Corporations Act 1964, to implement objectives of National Food Policy. Initially headquartered at Chennai it was later shifted to New Delhi. As it is a state-owned enterprise, it has presence in every state in India.

FCI Objectives

  • Safeguarding farmers interests by providing them remunerative prices.
  • Making food grains available at reasonable prices throughout the country (for public distribution system), particularly for vulnerable section of society.
  • Intervening in market for price stabilization.
  • Maintaining buffer stocks as a measure of Food Security.

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Government raises import duty on 328 textile products to curb imports

Government has doubled import duties on 328 textile products to 20% from existing rate of 10% under Section 159 of the Customs Act, 1962.  Earlier in July 2018, Government had doubled import duty on over 50 textile products — including jackets, suits and carpets to 20%.

Significance

The increase in duties will give edge to domestic manufacturers as imported products are currently cheaper. It will curb soaring imports from China and focus more on local value addition in labour-intensive sector. This move will also help to promote ‘Make in India’ as imports of these goods had surged drastically in last one year especially post GST. It will increase in manufacturing activity in various segments of the entire value chain of textile sector, which will help to create jobs in sector, which employs about 10.5 crore people.

Background

The move comes amid mounting concerns that trade war between world’s biggest economies United States and China will further aggravate dumping of cheaper products from China to Indian markets. As such, India’s textile imports jumped by 16% to record $7 billion in last fiscal, with China accounting for over 40% of purchases. Moreover, 28% hike in cotton prices by Government recently to ensure at least 50% premium to farmers over costs is expected to raise basic raw material costs for domestic manufacturers and could hurt our export competitiveness across value chains in the textile and garment sector.

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