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Kashmiri political leaders slam Centre’s move to reduce tariff on US apples 

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Kashmiri political leaders

Srinagar: Political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir continue voicing concern against the central government’s decision to reduce the tariff on apples imported from the United States.

In June, the US and India agreed to terminate six outstanding disputes at the World Trade Organization. India agreed to reduce tariffs on certain US products, including chickpeas, lentils, almonds, walnuts, apples, boric acid, and diagnostic reagents, a United States Trade Representative statement said past Friday.

An additional 20 percent duty was imposed on US apples in 2019 in response to US measures to increase tariffs on certain steel and aluminum products. There is no reduction on the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) duty on apples which is still applicable on all imported apples including those from the US at 50 percent.

National Conference (NC) leader Farooq Abdullah slammed the Centre’s move on tariffs concerning apples and said it did not think about the impact it would have on Jammu and Kashmir’s economy.

“They want to appease the US and finish off the local growers,” he said while reacting to the government decision to remove additional duties.

Speaking to reporters, the NC chief said, “When the concessions were announced during the G20, it wasn’t thought of what impact it would have on our economy. It would not only impact J&K but Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand also. Apples and walnuts are our major economy,” he said.

He appealed to the Government of India to not take a step that would increase the suffering already poverty-stricken population of J&K.

“If they don’t make it easy for the people, we will take to the streets and protest,” he asserted.

PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti also slammed the removal of additional tariff on apples.

“There is no shortage (of apples). Himachal and here (Jammu and Kashmir) have ample good-quality apples. Why do they (the government) still want to import apples?” she said, adding that the ‘Make in India’ of the government was a “joke”.

CPI(M) leader MY Tarigami also slammed the Centre.

“The import duty levied on American apples…has been drastically reduced and our marketplace has been handed over… Where would our apple growers go now?” he asked. 

Jammu and Kashmir Peoples’ Conference (JKPC) president Sajad Gani Lone also expressed profound concern over the issue. 

In a statement, he said that this decision will have a devastating impact on apple growers, particularly in the Kashmir Valley, who have been grappling with challenges for the past three decades. 

“The relaxation of customs duty on apples is going to hit the apple growers badly. The horticulturists in the valley have been struggling for the last three decades. Allowing free entry into the Indian market will be catastrophic for apple growers in Kashmir and also in the rest of the country,” he said in the statement. 

He further said that the gravity of the situation becomes apparent when one considers that the Indian market, already devoid of subsidies or assistance for its local growers, is now opening its doors to customs duty-free imports from a nation that provides substantial subsidies to its own apple industry. 

“Hope the government knows that the American apple growers are provided huge subsidies by the government. One estimate puts it at more than 25 percent. The apple growers, in India, have never seen any direct efforts of assistance or subsidies from the government. So the government allows custom duty free imports from a country which provides subsidies into a market which has no subsidies or assistance for its local growers”, he added. 

The PC president hoped that the government reevaluates this decision and reinstates customs duties. “Hope the decision is changed and custom duties are levied again,” Lone said.

Apni Party’s general secretary, Rafi Ahmad Mir also urged the Union government to reconsider its decision.

“The Central government must take into consideration the reality that Kashmir’s fruit growers have been grappling with significant losses, especially since August 2019. Removing the additional taxes on imported apples and walnuts from the US would have a devastating effect on local growers in J&K,” he said. 

“The government must realize that the fruit industry is a backbone of J&K’s economy, and hundreds of thousands of people are directly or indirectly dependent on this industry for their livelihoods. Abolishing taxes on US apples and walnuts would simply flood the market with cheaper imports, directly impacting the livelihoods of individuals connected with the fruit industry in Kashmir and other parts of the country,” he said as he appealed to the government to revoke its decision for the benefit of domestic growers and dealers.

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