The industry has demanded that for any imports above the quota, bound rates of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the highest duty rate permitted, be applied as unbridled imports have harmed domestic growers and processors.
“There have been unbridled imports of edible oil. India, the largest importer of edible oil, has been used as dumping ground,” said Davish Jain, president, Soyabean Processors’ Association of India (SOPA). “India imported 3.5 million tonnes of soybean oil in the previous year, which translates into 20 million tonnes of soybean seeds, while India produces 10-20 million tonnes of soybean. During June-August, we are likely to import 12 million tonnes of soybean oil.”
Thanks to sowing ahead of time this year, the industry is expecting a record crop if weather remains favourable till harvest. India had produced 10.7 million tonnes of soybean in 2018-19, as a prolonged monsoon and excess rainfall had reduced productivity and affected the quality of the crop.
To restrict import of crude soybean oil at a lower duty of 35%, SOPA has demanded that a seasonal tariff rate quota (TRQ) of 100,000 tonnes be fixed per month from October to January, the local harvest season, and at 250,000 tonnes per month from February to September.
“Beyond the above quantity, the duty should be raised to 45%, which is the WTO bound rate. For import of crude sunflower oil at a lower duty of 35%, fix a seasonal TRQ one lakh tonnes per month from October to January and 2 lakh tonnes per month from February to September. Beyond the above quantity, the duty should be raised to 50%,” said a representation from SOPA to the Union agriculture ministry.
The edible oil industry is also concerned about the import of refined palmolein and refined soybean oil from Nepal and Bangladesh in large quantities at zero duty, by allegedly flouting the rules of origin for duty exemption.