Editorial/ Port Wings Sept 30, 2015:
Without assigning any reason to the sudden action, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade has notified that apples to the country with 1.2 billion mouths can be imported via only one port, which is located on the west coast of India.
It is worth mentioning here that India, which has over 7500 kms of coastline, have 12 major ports and about 190 non-major ports (also known as minor ports) dotted along the shoreline.
Until the notification, apples were being imported via many major ports, including Chennai, which serves as a major centre for imported apple trade in South India.
In India, apples are mainly grown in Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir. These apples fulfill about 30-40 percent of domestic market in the country, and imported apples fill the remaining gap.
For Southern states like Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telengana and Karnataka, Chennai Port with testing lab facility for food items, plays an important role for import of apples from Far East and USA.
According to estimates, consumption of apple is more in the southern states compared to states in the north and it has helped flourishing imported apple business in the region for more than two decades.
With the apple imports has been increasing year after year and even started flooding the domestic markets as well as influencing prices, Union Government was caught on catch-22 situation.
Though market analysts say the decision of apple import curb on other ports by the Commerce Ministry is a well-calculated move to stop flooding of cheap apples into the country given the approaching festival season, it could have been a right decision had the Ministry allowed any port in South India to continue importing and stopped such imports in all other ports in the country.
People living in North Indian states as well as states in North East could buy domestic apples at affordable cost, as they are located close to the apple growing states.
The same domestic apples are costly in Southern states, as they have to be transported in refrigerated boxes crisscrossing national highways. The action may result in cartelization of the trade, which is detriment to the consumers based in southern parts of the sprawling country.
Hence, imported apples that too via Chennai Port come handy to fulfill the consumption needs of South Indian states.
Hence the trade based in South India is right in demanding amendment to the illogical notification of DGFT that barred all the ports in the country, except JNPT, to import apples.
Since there is no public interest in the sudden restriction of the port of import, trade expects immediate amendment to the notification.