New Delhi, June 28: Concerned over crash in domestic arecanut prices, senior BJP leaders from Karnataka including Union Minister Ananth Kumar on Tuesday,June 28 demanded ban on imports to curb shipment of poor quality commodity from neighbouring countries and protect farmers' income.
With Karnataka being a leading producer of arecanut, growers' association KRASSSM today met senior BJP leaders from the state to discuss the problems faced by the farmers in view of low quality arecanut imports from neighbouring countries that has resulted in over 70 per cent drop in domestic prices.
Minister of State for Heavy Industries G M Siddeshwara, BJP's Karnataka unit president B S Yeddyurappa were present in the meeting held at Fertiliser Minister Ananth Kumar's residence. Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who is a Rajya Sabha MP from the state was also present.
"We have discussed in detail with the Commerce Minister regarding the severe crisis faced by arecanut growers not only in Karnataka but all over the country. Suddenly, prices of arecanut have crashed. We have demanded ban on imports," Kumar told reporters after the meeting.
In a representation made to the Commerce Minister, Shimoga-based Karnataka Rajya Adike Sahakara Sangagala Sahakara Mahamandala (KRASSSM) has sought immediate ban on imports and levy tax on pan masala makers based on production and not on machine. "India grows very high quality arecanut. But arecanut dumped into India is of very low quality.
This should be banned. ...I have requested Sitharaman that there should be immediate relief to arecanut growers," the Union Fertiliser Minister said. The Commerce Minister has assured that she would work out a formula to provide assistance and relief to growers of Karnataka and other states, he added.
There is a "huge crisis" as arecanut rates have dropped below Rs 22,000/quintal in 2016 from Rs 80,000/quintal last year. Moreover, import of low quality arecanut from neighbouring countries like Nepal and Bangladesh has aggravated the problem, Kumar said.
Raising similar concerns, Siddeshwara said the rise in domestic output of arecanut coupled with growing imports even at higher customs duty has led to crash in domestic rates.
There is a need to restrict imports to protect the domestic growers, who are estimated to have harvested 8,00,000 tonnes in 2015, which is higher by 2,00,000 tonnes from previous year, he said.
He also urged farmers not to focus on one crop and instead diversify to banana, cocoa and other crops in such situation.
Asserting that farmers should get right price for their produce, BJP's Karnataka unit President B S Yeddyurappa said that the government should ban imports and provide immediate relief to domestic growers who are not able to sell their produce at lower rate.
The country's domestic output was 8 lakh tonnes in 2015 against the annual requirement of 12 lakh tonnes. Karnataka produces the country's 60 per cent of arecanut.