The Centre on Friday cut import duty on wheat and potato to 10 per cent while reducing it by 5 per cent on crude as well as refined palm oils so as to boost supplies and check prices during the upcoming festival season.
Import duty on wheat was 25 per cent. It was 30 per cent on potato. Duty on crude palm oil has been reduced to 7.5 per cent from 12.5 per cent, and on refined to 15 per cent from 20 per cent. In a notification, the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) said import duty on potatoes has been reduced from 30 per cent to 10 per cent till October 2016. The import duty on wheat has been reduced from 25 per cent to 10 per cent till February 2017.
The government reduced "import duty on palm oil from 12.5 per cent to 7.5 per cent for crude palm oil of edible grade, and from 20 per cent to 15 per cent for refined palm oil of edible grade." In case of wheat, the government has reduced the import duty despite higher domestic production at 93.50 million tonnes in the 2015-16 crop year (July-June).
The Food Ministry had proposed the cut in wheat import duty as its procurement dropped sharply to 22.9 million tonnes this year, raising concerns about the domestic availability.
The flour millers had demanded withdrawal of the import duty citing 5 million tonnes shortfall in the domestic output. Hailing the decision, Roller Flour Millers Federation of India Secretary Veena Sharma said: "This will improve the supply and check price rise." Concerned over rising retail prices amid production shortfall, the government reduced the import duty on potatoes to improve the domestic availability.
As per the official data, potato output has declined by 9 per cent to 43.7 million tonnes in 2015-16 crop year (July-June) compared with 48 million tonnes last year. Edible oil industry body Solvent Extractors Association of India opposed the import duty cut on refined palm oil.
"Edible oil is not contributing to inflation. However, if the government was so much concerned, it should have reduced import duty only on crude palm oil and not refined palm oil," SEA Executive Director B V Mehta said. He said higher duty difference between crude and refined palm oil would have encouraged domestic refining.