INDUSTRY speculation there could be relief in sight in terms of heft tariffs on pulses imported into India were dashed this week with news the Indian Government had made a shock move to hike chickpea tariffs to a whopping 40 per cent.
Along with the tariff, Indian officials also imposed a 10pc ‘social welfare’ charge applicable on imports, meaning overall imported chickpeas will be slugged with 44pc in tariffs and duties.
The news has caught the pulse industry by surprise, however the first round of import tariffs of 30pc, imposed just prior to Christmas, had not achieved its objective of bolstering domestic pulse prices, so the Government has stepped in and raised the tariff once more.
It is believed the tariff hike is only applicable to chickpeas, not lentils, which also had the 30pc tariff applied in December.
The news is a drastic about face from the Indian Government, which just last month made assurances to new Australian agriculture minister David Littleproud that Australian officials would be notified in advance of any intentions to raise or implement tariffs.
Grain Producers Australia (GPA) director Andrew Earle is heading to India as part of a scheduled tour on marketing opportunities and will discuss the tariff issue with Indian officials.
“India is one of our key trading partners and this announcements by India to increase tariffs on our pulse crops, suggests that we need to put more effort into building stronger relations with this important trading partner,” Mr Earle said.
“We cannot continue with such unpredictable operating rules.”
“We estimated the pre-Christmas change in tariffs cost the Australian pulse industry almost $20 million.”
“We remain hopeful that Indian decision-makers, including the Minister for Commerce and Industry the Hon. Suresh Prabhu and India’s Central Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare the Hon. Krishna Raj, will ensure our strong trading partnership continues now and into the future,” he said.
While some buyers have lost confidence and moved to a price on application, most major players are still listing and purchasing grain at an unchanged cash price.