Govt to review import duty structure for edible oils

Amid rising imports of vegetable oils, the food ministry will review customs duties on edible oils and prepare a cabinet note in this regard.

Finance minister P Chidambaram, agriculture minister Sharad Pawar and food minister KV Thomas met on Tuesday to review edible oil imports, status of wheat exports and sale of wheat under the Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS).

"I met finance minister and agriculture minister and briefed them about edible oil imports, wheat exports and OMSS," he told reporters after the meeting here, but declined to share further details. However, according to sources, food ministry has been asked to review the duty structure on edible oils, both crude and refined, and then send a cabinet note in this regard. The ministry would then formulate a duty structure, keeping in view the interest of both consumers and farmers.

At present, there is zero duty on crude edible oils and 7.5 per cent on the refined one. India imported a record 10.19 million tonnes of vegetable oils in 2011-12. Last month, imports were up by 35 per cent to over 9 lakh tonnes as compared to December 2011. Sources said that the agriculture ministry is in favour of hiking the import duty on edible oils, as higher import of edible oils has affected farmers and oilseed processing units. However, finance and food ministries are against it as they fear that rising custom duties would lead to a rise in retail prices of cooking oil.

The ministers also discussed ways to reduce the country's import dependence on edible oils. Currently, India imports more than half of its domestic requirement. Besides edible oils, the meeting also discussed sale of wheat to bulk consumers such as flour millers and biscuit makers under OMSS. The food ministry is preparing a proposal to cut wheat prices under the scheme to boost sales, sources said.

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