Chief Minister Siddaramaiah addressed the distress caused to pepper growers of Karnataka — caused by the “dumping” of Vietnamese pepper imported through Sri Lanka — by writing to the Centre to immediately intervene and take stringent measures to check import of the commodity.
The duty-free import of spices allowed from Sri Lanka under the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) has resulted in the pepper produced cheaply in Vietnam finding its way into India through Sri Lanka, leading to a crash in prices of pepper grown in Karnataka.
In a letter to Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Suresh Prabhu, Mr. Siddaramaiah said stringent checks on the import from Sri Lanka were necessary to keep the price of indigenously grown pepper stable. Imports should be regulated so that only superior quality pepper is allowed.
As the largest producer of pepper in India, Mr. Siddaramaiah said Karnataka produces 14,500 tonnes of the commodity every year. “In Karnataka, pepper is grown as an inter-crop in coffee and areca plantations by trailing the vines on the trees. Our shade-grown black pepper is of high quality, and more importantly, it is eco-friendly,” he said.
In South-East Asia, vast areas of dense forests have been cleared for growing black pepper as a mono-crop. “The vines are exposed to elements of nature, the plants are disease-prone and growers resort to a very high usage of chemical pesticides for the pest and disease control. It is suspected that most of the imported pepper might actually be rejected consignments from elsewhere for high pesticide residues,” Mr. Siddaramaiah said.
However, he said, the “dumping” of inferior quality pepper from Vietnam in the country through duty-free concessions extended to Sri Lanka under SAFTA had led to a crash in farm gate price ranging from ₹650 to ₹700 per kg prevailing a couple of years ago, to ₹350 to ₹400 at present.
This, he said, was affecting the livelihood of pepper growers in Karnataka and could jeopardise their future.
Mr. Siddaramaiah has urged the Centre to employ strict phytosanitary standards to check the quality and ensure only disease-free pepper is imported.
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