18/01/2008 (The Hindu), New Delhi - The government on Friday said it has not yet decided on reducing the customs duty on imported edible oils such as palm oil and soya oil.
"We have not yet decided," Agriculture and Food Minister Sharad Pawar said here on the sidelines of a conference organised by industry chamber FICCI.
"Basically we have to protect the interest of domestic producers first," he added.
The import duty on palm oils stands at 45 per cent and on crude soyabean oil 40 per cent, which was last revised on July 23, 2007 to check the rising domestic edible oil prices.
The Mumbai-based Solvent Extractors Association of India (SEA) last week wrote a letter to the Food Ministry asking it to keep the duty structure unaltered and instead give thrust to increase the domestic production of oilseeds.
SEA had said that the current duty structure on imported edible oils should not be disturbed. It also said there was a need to raise the domestic oilseeds production as there would be no option available with the government once import duty is slashed to zero level.
The domestic edible oil prices have risen by 15-20 per cent over the past one year, while global prices have surged by about 75 per cent in the same period, the industry body said.
The association highlighted that the impact of global price rise has been minimised due to duty cut and rupee appreciation. Besides, SEA said that effective import duty on edible oils has come to about 20 per cent as the government has not changed the base price.
India imports palm oil from Malaysia and Argentina and soya oil from Argentina and Brazil. Edible oil imports surged by 6.7 per cent to 47.14 lakh tons in 2006-07 season ending October.