Amid the uproar over the removal of customs duty on apples imported from the US, the Commerce Ministry has clarified that the decision would not impact local players.
Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, Peeyush Kumar, Additional Secretary, Commerce Ministry said that the government has sufficient policy space to support growers if there is any implication of the move.
Kumar said that 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 USD 145 million (127,908 tonnes) in 2018-19 to only USD 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 imposition of additional retaliatory duty on American apples, as the imports from countries other than the US increased from USD 160 million in 2018-19 to USD 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 3.36 lakh 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.
Peeyush Kumar said that officials will meet twice a year to review the arrangements.
“We will have a biennial meeting…We have requested steel and mines ministries to designate an officer from their side who will be talking to stakeholders and exporters that applications are being properly processed,” Kumar told media persons.
If Indian exporters would face any bottleneck or problem, it would be conveyed to the commerce ministry and will be taken up with the US during the meetings of the joint monitoring mechanism (JMM), he added.
As a goodwill gesture, the US started approving applications for the import of these items from January this year because the two countries were talking about mutually ending the trade disputes at the WTO.