Shimla: The Himachal assembly unanimously adopted a private members bill that impresses upon the union government to impose anti-dumping duties on apples being imported from China.
Moving the bill that was later adopted by the house, opposition member and senior congress leader Kaul Singh Thakur said that imported apple had become a threat to the economy of growers in the state.
He said that about 1.60 lakh farmers were dependent upon the fruit crop and though congress legislators in their individual capacity had taken up the matter with the central government but a unanimous resolution of the state assembly would make the demand more effective.
The law maker sought constitution of an expert committee to make a case raising import dutyâ€™s on apple, and for getting the fruit declared a special category product that needed state intervention for being shielded from dumping by other countries.
Participating in the debate Kushi Ram Balnatah, a BJP member while endorsing the demand, reminded the house that the NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1999-2004 had raised import duties on apple and saved a large section of the hill farming community.
He said that it was unfair to compare cost of productivity of European or other countries apple with that of produced in Himachal, Jammu & Kashmir or Uttrakhand.
Whereas the fruit was grown on flat lands in these nations, in the Indian hill states, the Himalayan topography presented many challenges, which the farmers needed to overcome to have a sustainable livelihood out of the activity, he said.
Leader of the opposition Vidya Stokes said that imports of apple was causing livelihood insecurity among the growers.
Asking for rising above party lines, she said that the matter of declaring apple a special category product should be jointly taken up by all apple producing states, which include J&K and Uttrakhand.
Provisions for imposing anti dumping duty existed under WTO rules and the central government needed to asked for restricting imports of the fruit and save the hill farmers from the unfair trade practices being resorted to.
Stokes claimed that landing price of Chinese apple in Indian markets was Rs 39 per Kg, US apple was Rs 51 per Kg and New Zealand apple was Rs 57 per Kg.
Responding to the debate, horticulture minister Narinder Bragta said imports of Chinese apple was rising steadily since the year 2006.
He said that in 2009-10 and 2010-11 apples worth Rs 500 crore in each year were imported.
The government had taken up the case for raising import duty on Chinese apple with union commerce minister Anand Sharma and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar.
Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal had even written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh but the central government has not yet acted upon the demand of apple producing states, he said.
Supporting the private members bill, Bragta said that to save the cash crop of a large section of hill farmers, the union government must be impressed up to raise import duty on the fruit, apple be declared a special category product to shield it from WTO regulations and anti dumping duties need to be imposed for the Chinese apple being dumped in Indian markets.
As Editor, Ravinder Makhaik leads a team of media professionals at Hill Post.
Spanning a career of over two decades in mass communication, as a Documentary Filmmaker, TV journalist, Print Media journalist and with Online & Social Media, he brings with him a vast experience. He lives in Shimla.
All this distress is in itself very distressing. My question is: how long local farmers are going to hide behind shield of protectionist laws? How long local farmers can dissuade a customer from not just picking/but also asking for Chinese//Fiji/Israeli or Kashmiri apple from the vendors which is much more attractive, juicy, and reasonably priced to a customer, who does not mind spending Rs 20 for a better quality? It is never too late to wake to reality.