Oppn slams decision to cut import duty on apples from US, Centre defends

Oppn slams decision to cut import duty on apples from US, Centre defends
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However, the Centre reiterated that the move to slash import duty on apples from the US would have no "negative" impact on the growers.
Reacting to the move, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi, speaking to ANI in Himachal Pradesh, said apple growers in the hill state were suffering due to decisions of industrialists concerning procurement and the central government's move to reduce tariff on the import of apples from the US will only compound their woes.
"...This will make the import (of American apples) easier. They will be sold easily. Prices for procurement of apples in Shimla have been brought down by big industrialists. When the apple growers are suffering here, who should our government stand with? Them or apple growers in the US?" she asked.
The Congress leader said local farmers should be helped and they should get proper prices for their produce.
In June, the US and India agreed to terminate six outstanding disputes at the World Trade Organisation. India also agreed to reduce tariffs on certain US products, including chickpeas, lentils, almonds, walnuts, apples, boric acid, and diagnostic reagents, a United States Trade Representative statement said on Friday.
An additional 20 per cent duty was imposed on US apples in 2019 in response to a measure by Washington to increase tariffs on certain steel and aluminium products. There is no reduction on the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) duty on apples which is still applicable on all imported apples including in the US at 50 per cent.
Meanwhile, the Commerce Ministry clarified that the decision would not impact local players.
Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, Peeyush Kumar, additional secretary, Commerce Ministry said the government has sufficient policy space to support growers if there is any implication of the move.
Kumar said only the additional duty has been removed and the basic duty of 50 per cent will continue besides the minimum import on apples.
According to Commerce Ministry, this measure will not result in any negative impact on domestic apple, walnut and almond producers. Rather, it will result in competition in the premium market segment of apples, walnuts and almonds, thereby ensuring better quality at competitive prices for our Indian consumers. Thus, the US apples, walnuts and almonds would compete on the same level playing field as all other countries.
Notably, the import of apples from the US decreased sharply from $145 million (127,908 tonnes) in 2018-19 to only $5.27 million (4,486 tonnes) in 2022-23.
It indicates that the market share of the US apples was taken by other countries due to the imposition of additional retaliatory duty on American apples, as the imports from countries other than the US increased from $160 million in 2018-19 to $290 million in 2022-23.
Kumar further said that India and the US have resolved all their pending disputes at the World Trade Organisation.
"US has agreed to remove additional duties on Indian exports of Aluminium and Steel products up to a volume of at least 3.3 lakh metric tonnes (LMT) per year. In reciprocation, India has slashed retaliatory duties imposed on 8 items being imported from the US; namely apples, chickpeas, lentils, boric acid, diagnostic reagents, shelled and fresh or dried almonds. Additional duties by India will continue to be levied on 21 imported products from the US, down from 29 products earlier," he said.
US' import share in the import market segment was taken by countries like Turkey, Chile, New Zealand and Italy. Imports of walnuts dipped to 3,806 tonnes in 2022 from 8,663 tonnes in 2019.
The Additional Secretary added that India and the US have agreed to set up a joint monitoring mechanism to enable domestic exports of at least 336,000  tonnes of certain steel and aluminium products in a year to America without paying extra duties.
Indian exports of these products were attracting additional duties in the US as Washington, in 2018, imposed a 25 per cent import duty on steel products and 10 per cent on certain aluminium products on grounds of national security.
In retaliation, India in June 2019 imposed additional customs duties on 28 American products.
The US is allowing these imports from India without paying the extra 25 per cent and 10 per cent duties in return for New Delhi's decision to remove retaliatory duties on eight American products like apple and walnut.