Upasi protests against move to reduce rubber import duty

Economy


KOCHI: The United Planters’ Association of Southern India (Upasi) has come out strongly against the reported move by the tyre manufacturers to seek nil duty on natural rubber imports.

Upasi president A E Joseph said there should not be any tweaking of the import duty currently at 25% or Rs 30 whichever is lower. Any such move to reduce the import duty will be detrimental to the interest of 13.1 lakh growers and 4.93 lakh workers dependent on this agro industry, he said in a statement.

“There is no reason whatsoever to reduce the import duty especially given the surge in imports of natural rubber into India during last few years, with each year reporting new highs,’’ he said.

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The import went up from 77,762 tonnes in 2008-09 to 5, 82,351 tonnes in 2018-19. The increased imports and thereby un-remunerative prices led to a drop in output. The situation if allowed to continue, will make India fully dependent on foreign countries for this strategic raw material.

Natural rubber [dry form] was the only plantation commodity wherein the bound rate was fixed at a very low level of 25%. The base duty of dry forms of NR in the base year [1986] under WTO framework was 85 per cent (above the threshold level of 40 per cent) and hence should have been bound at 40 per cent according to the norms.

The fixation of lower bound rates for the dominant dry forms of NR thus was not only regressive but also an explicit violation of the standard norms fixed by the Indian government, he said.

Any attempt to disturb the import duty structure will be counter-productive in augmenting the domestic production. The case in point, is the drastic decline in the production from the level of 9.13 lakh tonnes in 2012-13 to 5.62 lakh tonnes in 2015-16. From these levels the current year the output increased to 6.48 Lakhs tonnes in 2018-19 and it is anticipated to further improve to 7.50 lakh tonnes this year.



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