New Delhi: Concerned over declining prices of pulses produced domestically due to cheap imports, an RSS- affiliated body today urged the government to impose a 30 per cent import duty on them to help safeguard farmers' interests.
In a letter to Union Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, the Swadeshi Jagran Manch has asked her to step in while fearing that the country's food security will be at the mercy of international markets. It said unless the government imposes customs duty on pulses, the situation may turn worse and farmers would be disinclined to produce more pulses domestically, due to poor productivity and low prices.
Manch national co-convener Ashwani Mahajan told Sitharaman that her Ministry has exempted import of pulses from paying the 10 per cent imports duty which has led to large-scale imports at lower prices. Mahajan said the custom duty exemption notification on pulses expired on March 31 and urged the government not to issue a fresh notification for continuing with the exemption.
"I take this opportunity to urge you to kindly not pronounce any such notification of exemption from duty, after lapse of this notification. "There after kindly impose at least 30 percent duty to safeguard the interest of the farmers and for the food security of the nation," he said.
The Manch said the exemption of pulses from import duty, done to support domestic supplies and keep prices of pulses low for consumers, does not have relevance now as domestic prices of the commodity have come down. It said it is unfortunate that due to zero duty import of pulse traders have flooded the market with yellow peas.
The Manch said this is bound to kill traditional pulses market for ever for hotel and restaurant industry, the biggest consumer of pulse. According to the RSS body, though the government tried to procure pulses from farmers at Minimum Support Prices (MSP), not all farmers could get the benefit of support prices.
"As a result, zero duty import of pulses has killed the farmers' income in pulses," Mahajan said, adding that traders are selling imported pulses at comparatively lower prices in the market and pulses are being sold below the MSP announced by the government.
"The country's food security will be at the mercy of international markets. This is not a prudent approach," he said.
The Manch co-convener said the erstwhile USSR suffered due to lack of domestic food supplies and India needs to encourage domestic production of pulses and oil seeds for its food security.
Further, he said, importers have created huge processing and warehousing facilities near major ports like refined oil companies.