Pepper imported from Sri Lanka @Rs 550 a kg, domestic price @Rs 350
Mattancherry (Ernakulam): The price of black pepper has touched Rs 350 per kilogram in India whereas the pepper imported from Sri Lanka costs Rs 550 per kilogram. Despite the huge difference in price, 1445 tonnes of pepper was imported from Sri Lanka within 6 months. The merchants are questioning the import of pepper for a higher price.
A total of 738 tonnes of pepper was imported from Sri Lanka in July alone. The Centre decided to regulate import in order to help the pepper farmers get a fair price. Following this, the lowest price of imported pepper was fixed as Rs 500 per kilogram. According to South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA), 8 percent tax also should be paid in addition to the price and this increased the price to Rs 550.
Within 7 months, 12,991 tonnes of pepper was imported from several foreign countries. Majority of them were imported to extract the essence from pepper and residue send back. But the remnants of the pepper after extracting is brought to the market, the merchants pointed out. Only 10 percent of the pepper contains the essence and the remaining 90 percent is only waste.
As per rules, the waste pepper should be destroyed. However, it is sold in the market after mixing with good quality pepper. The pepper price drops considerably due to this. The farmers in Kerala are in crisis as the price do not increases even when pepper has huge demand in the North Indian states, said Kishore Shamji, the coordinator of Indian Pepper and Spice Traders, Farmers, Producers and Planters Consortium (IPSTPC).
When pepper is available for a low price in the country, importing it from foreign countries for a higher price is mysterious. A complaint has been filed with the government requesting to appoint the central agencies to investigate these transactions, said Kishore Shamji, the coordinator of IPSTPC.