Kashmir Fruit Growers and Opposition Protest Relaxation on US Apple Imports

Kashmir Fruit Growers and Opposition Protest Relaxation on US Apple Imports
Kashmir Fruit Growers and Opposition Protest Relaxation on US Apple Imports
Kashmir Fruit Growers and Opposition Protest Relaxation on US Apple Imports
Kashmir Fruit Growers and Opposition Protest Relaxation on US Apple Imports

Kashmir Fruit Growers and Opposition Protest Relaxation on US Apple Imports

Kashmir Fruit Growers and Opposition Protest Relaxation on US Apple Imports. Image/Express

Local Industry Threatened by Duty Relaxations

The decision by the Indian government to relax duties on apples imported from the United States has drawn strong objections from Kashmir’s fruit growers and opposition parties, who argue that it will have dire consequences for the local apple industry.

Background: Retaliatory Duties

In 2019, India imposed a 20% additional duty on agricultural products, including apples, lentils, and chickpeas, in retaliation for the United States raising duties on Indian aluminum and steel exports, citing national security concerns in 2018.

Resolution in June 2023

In June 2023, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the United States and reached an agreement to remove retaliatory measures, including the increased duty, which had resulted in six litigation disputes at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Current Situation

India has reportedly removed the retaliatory duty of 20%, but it will maintain the existing 50% duty on apples under the most favored nation category. In return, the US government also removed the raised duties on metals.

Impact on Kashmir’s Apple Industry

Kashmir produces approximately 22 lakh tonnes of apples annually, and thousands of families are directly or indirectly connected to the apple industry in the region. The reduction in customs duty on US apple imports is expected to make US apples cheaper in Indian markets, posing a challenge for apples from Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand to compete.

Statements and Opposition

  • Mohammad Ashraf, President of Fruit Mandi in Shopian, expressed concern over the inability of local growers to compete with cheaper US apples. He highlighted that other countries, such as Japan, impose a 100% cess to protect their own fruit and agriculture industries.
  • Opposition parties in Jammu and Kashmir criticized the central government’s decision. Former J&K and NC President Farooq Abdullah stated that the move would impact not only J&K but also Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
  • Senior CPI(M) leader and former MLA Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami referred to the relaxation as PM Modi’s G20 gift to Joe Biden.
  • Senior Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in Himachal Pradesh criticized the decision, stating that it would harm apple growers.

Government’s Response

The Additional Secretary in the Department of Commerce, Peeyush Kumar, defended the government’s decision, asserting that the removal of the 20% retaliatory customs duty on imported American apples would have “zero impact” on Indian farmers. He added that the government has sufficient policy space to support growers if there are any adverse consequences.

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