Pepper exporters hope Centre will scrap minimum import price to boost trade

KOCHI: Value-added pepper exporters are hoping that the central government will soon take a decision on their demand to scrap the minimum import price (MIP) of Rs 500 per kg which was imposed at the behest of farmers in Karnataka, the largest pepper producer.

Karnataka’s farmers had argued that large-scale imports were pushing down prices. Even after MIP was introduced in December last year, value-added pepper exporters, who import cheaper pepper for value addition and then export the commodity, had continued to import below the MIP by paying fines. But with the Centre banning imports below MIP, value-added exports have almost come to a standstill since March. The exporters’ association had approached the Union commerce ministry demanding withdrawal of MIP. As per the request of the ministry the association had taken up the matter through the Spices Board as well.

“We feel that the fractured verdict in Karnataka may be the reason for the delay in taking a decision,” said Prakash Namboodiri, chairman of All India Spices Exporters Association.

But now that the Congress-JDS combine is set to form government, exporters are hoping that the Centre will soon take a decision on their demand.

Exporters said the pepper from Vietnam is available at about Rs 190 per kg while in the local market it is selling at Rs 360-375 per kg. “It has been six months since MIP was levied and we have almost lost hope,’’ said JojanMalayail, CEO of Bafna Enterprises. However, whole pepper exporters alleged that pepper continued to enter India despite MIP.

“Large quantities of Vietnam pepper are being smuggled to north India from Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar by flouting the MIP,’’ said Kishor Shamji, an exporter.