THE Australian government is calling on India to provide a transition period for new tariffs on imported pulses to avoid harming existing contracts or shipments in transit.
India recently imposed a 30% tax on chickpea and red lentil imports, hot on the heels of a 50% tariff on peas, the aim being to support local farmers.
Trade minister Steven Ciobo was quoted by Reuters as saying he had asked his Indian counterpart for a period of transition for chickpeas and red lentils.
According to Reuters, Australia exports about A$1.2bn of the two pulses a year, with estimates India accounts for about half of the shipments.
Pulse Australia chairman, Ron Storey, said the tariff would have two impacts.
“First, there is the product on the water, for which Pulse Australia believes the Indian Government ought to provide a tariff exemption. Initial indications are that some 200,000 tonnes (around A$150 million) of Australian chickpeas and lentils are in transit to India and may be affected,” Mr Storey said.
“The Indian Government should provide an exemption for Indian importers for product contracted and shipped prior to the new tariff being announced.
“Indian buyers and Australia sellers have contracted in good faith, and the prior conditions should apply to permit smooth execution of those contracts.”
Mr Storey said Pulse Australia had made this request via Australian Government channels in India and was also working with Canada to clarify this matter.
“Second, there is the longer term issue of the impact of tariffs on food security,” said Mr Storey. “While India strives for self-sufficiency in pulse production, most projections are that India’s reliance on imports for the foreseeable future must continue to guarantee the security of this vital protein source for the Indian population.”
Mr Storey said Australian growers could take heart from signs of stronger demand for Australian chickpeas and lentils from other markets such as Bangladesh and Pakistan.