Zero import duty on wheat will lead to dumping: Unions


Farmers unions and agriculture experts express concern over Centre’s move

Farmers’ unions and agriculture experts are anguished over the Centre’s decision to scrap the import duty on wheat as they fear that farmers’ income will be affected and they will have to resort to distress sale during the rabi season.

The All India Kisan Sabha said government agencies had failed to procure wheat at the minimum support price (MSP), and without an adequate number of open purchasing centres, farmers are forced to sell their crop at lower prices.

“The decision of scrapping the import duty ahead of the winter wheat crop is aimed at helping agri-businesses by dumping wheat from foreign countries in India,” AIKS president Amra Ram said.

He said that big players in the wheat flour market had been demanding withdrawal of the duty, and this move was to suit their interests.

The Centre recently announced zero import duty from the prevailing 10 per cent to improve domestic availability and check rising prices of wheat and wheat-based products.

“Wheat traders are expecting imports to cross five million tonnes this year. The cost of imported wheat would be far below the MSP of ongoing rabi (Rs. 16,250 a tonne), resulting in crashing domestic wheat prices as the government has no effective procurement mechanism in many States,” he said.

Detrimental step

Nirbhay Singh, leader of the Kirti Kisan Union in Punjab, said, “With easing norms for wheat imports, the government has taken a detrimental step towards farmers’ interest. We have seen it in every season that though the government promises to buy crop at the MSP, yet farmers sell their produce in distress at a lower price for various reasons,” he said.

Agriculture experts also expressed concern over the Centre’s decision and apprehended that the move could badly hurt farmers’ income.

“The government has been saying that wheat sowing has not been impacted by demonetisation and the area of cultivation has increased. If the area has actually increased, and there are no other indications that wheat production will be down in the ongoing season, then why is the government allowing import of duty-free wheat?” asks Ajay Jakhar, chairman of Bharat Krishak Samaj.

“It will lead to a drop in wheat price by at least Rs. 250 per quintal in the open market,” he added.

Devinder Sharma, noted agricultural and food policy analyst, said: “Scrapping duty on wheat would be detrimental to Indian agriculture. First, we did it with oilseeds then with pulses and now with wheat. Importing wheat will hurt our farmers.”

“Prices of wheat have been going up due to the government’s failure. But the farmers should not be penalised for that,” Mr. Sharma said.


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