Higher import duty on US apples, walnuts brings cheer in Kashmir

India’s move to raise import duty from 30 percent to 120 percent on 28 items including apples, almonds and walnuts being imported from United States of America has brought cheer on the faces of fruit growers as well as traders in Kashmir as they believe the decision would widen market share of the locally produced fruits in the country and will bring better returns.

India on Sunday imposed higher tariffs on 28 items imported from the US, in retaliation to Washington’s recent withdrawal of trade privileges for New Delhi.

The increased duties apply to products including almonds, apples and walnuts, the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs said.

India would “implement the imposition of retaliatory duties on 28 specified goods originating in or exported from [the] USA”, it said in a notification

The trade tension comes despite the efforts from Washington to boost ties with India as a counterweight to China, and assertions made by both US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi about their good relationship.

India is the second largest market for Washington apples, and of late it has eaten away the share of Kashmiri apples in Indian markets, as it has not been able to compete with the quality and post production management of the US fruits.

However with increase in tariff rates, the local fruit growers and dealers believe that USA apples will become out of bounds for common people in India which would help Kashmiri apples and walnuts.

“It is a good move for Kashmiri apples, of late we have witnessed that there was huge increase in import of USA apples to Indian markets which definitely had an impact on our business. With hike in import tariffs, imported apple prices would increase thus making it costlier for people,” said chairman All Kashmir Fruit Growers Cum Dealers Union, Bashir Ahmad Basheer.

He said similarly walnut and almond growers will also get benefited by this move. “USA walnuts and almonds had eaten away our market, even in Kashmir it had made inroads.”

Chairman, PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Kashmir Chapter, Mushtaq Ahmad Chaya welcomed the decision of Indian government to hike tariff on apples, walnuts and almonds imported from USA.

“Horticulture is the mainstay of our economy, this decision will help in a long way to ensure good return for our farmers who are distressed lot due to host of issues,” he said adding that “government must initiate more steps to promote local production which would in turn help farmers and growers across Jammu and Kashmir”.

Kashmir imports more than 19 lakh metric tonnes of apples to Indian markets each year.

The stage for the row was set last year after Washington refused to exempt India from higher steel and aluminium tariffs, in keeping with Trump’s decision to act against countries with which it has a large trade deficit.

India responded by saying it would raise import taxes on a slew of US goods.

But it delayed raising tariffs several times, hoping for negotiation to tackle the sticky trade issue.

However, Trump’s decision this month to strip New Delhi of its preferential trade status appears to have prompted the latest Indian move.

According to the new tariffs, import duty on walnut has been hiked to 120 percent from 30 percent and on chickpeas and lentils it has been raised to 70 percent from 30 per cent currently.

The trade row is likely to be taken up when Trump and Modi meet at the G20 summit on June 28-29 in Osaka.

US goods and services trade with India stood at an estimated $142.1 billion in 2018. The US trade deficit with India was $24.2 billion, according to official data.

Washington is already engaged in a full-blown trade war with India’s regional rival China.