Slump in prices of black pepper owing to import of a cheaper variety from Vietnam has led to an online campaign to pressurize the Centre to bring a semblance of order in import and export. K K Vishwanath of Karnataka Growers' Federation initiated the campaign on Change.org after petitioning Union minister of commerce Suresh Prabhu, director-general of the directorate of revenue intelligence Debi Prasad Dash and Sidaramappa S, secretary, Spices Board of India.
The drive has drawn over 1,300 signatures within a week.It was launched after Kodagu police seized a large quantity of pepper at Gonikoppa in Virajpettaluk following a complaint that traders were selling adulterated pepper at a cheaper rate. Police found the traders were selling Vietnam pepper at a low price for exporters. They sent the samples to Central Food Technological Research Institute CFTRI in Mysuru for confirmation.
The petition says pepper, produced cheaply in Indonesia and Vietnam,is finding its way into India,thanks to import duty concession from Sri Lanka under the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) deal. The latter allows duty-free import of spices for value addition and re-exports. As a result, pepper farmers in Karnataka and Kerala, which account for the highest production of pepper in the country, are seeing prices tumbling to an all-time low. Through the petition, pepper growers are demanding that the government put in place measures to check Lankan imports to 2,000 tonnes and ban processed/sterilized re-exported Vietnam black pepper.
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