The Himachal Pradesh Assembly, raised concerns regarding the influx of foreign apples into the Indian market through Afghanistan. The issue of illegal apple imports has not only raised alarm in the state but has also led to significant revenue losses for the central government.
MLA Expresses Concern: Kuldeep Rathore, MLA from Theog, brought this pressing matter to the forefront. He highlighted that Iranian apples are being funneled into Indian markets through Afghanistan due to the absence of import duties on Afghan apples. Rathore emphasized that these apples are entering India via the Wagah border and called for immediate action to curb this practice, which is detrimental to the apple industry in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Uttarakhand.
Rathore urged opposition leaders in the House, particularly those from the Bharatiya Janta Party, to take up this issue with the Central government. He also called for the retention of the import duty on Washington Apples at 70 percent.
Rathore expressed deep concern about the recent reduction in import duty on Washington Apples from 70 percent to 50 percent by the Central government in June. He voiced his fears that there are plans to further decrease the duty to 15 percent, a move that could devastate Himachal’s apple industry valued at Rs 5000 crore, impacting thousands of families reliant on apple farming for their livelihoods.
Minister Responds: Responding to these concerns, Horticulture Minister Jagat Singh Negi noted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised to increase import duties on apples in Hamirpur in 2014 before his election, a promise that remains unfulfilled even after nine years. In a surprising turn of events, the government not only failed to keep this promise but also reduced import duties, causing considerable distress among apple growers.
The concerns among Himachali apple growers stem from figures released by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. In the fiscal year 2017-18, when the import duty on Washington Apples stood at 50 percent, India imported 1,27,908 metric tonnes of apples from Washington. After the duty was increased to 70 percent in 2018, the import plummeted to a mere 4,486 tonnes in the financial year 2022-23, marking a staggering 29-fold reduction. Any further reduction to 15 percent would likely lead to a substantial surge in apple imports.
Adding to the concerns, there has been a notable increase in the import of Iranian apples this year. This influx could adversely affect the apples stored in cold storage facilities in the coming days.
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