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Friday, September 13, 2019

200% duty hits cement importers hard

200% duty hits cement importers hard

GS Paul 

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, September 12

Keeping in view its non-viability of the product, the cement importers have decided to forego their consignments stuck at the Integrated Check Post (ICP), Attari, for the past six months.

As a fallout of the Pulwama attack, the Centre had imposed 200 per cent duty on goods to be imported from Pakistan since February 16. 

This economic boycott has cost traders heavily on the either side of the border. Cement was a key import from Pakistan. There’s been no custom duty on cement imports from Pakistan since 2007, making it competitive in comparison to the Indian product. 

The cement demand was at its peak in India after the Modi government announced Rs 5,000-crore rehabilitation projects for the flood-hit Kerala. 

Till February 16, it invited an import duty of 7.5 per cent only. But post Pulwama attack, the 200 per cent duty effectively ended in a ban on any purchase from Pakistan. It worked as a blessing in disguise for the domestic cement companies which were reeling under the impact of low demand and high GST. It is learnt that they have also increased their rates now. 

Nonetheless, at least 90,000 bags of cement are lying at Attari.  As the cement is a perishable commodity, any undue delay in clearing the cargo results in its value degradation and damage.  

A prominent cement importer, MPS Chatha, said the strength of cement tends to weaken after two months. “Under present circumstances, it will not be practical for us to accept the goods even if  we are charged normal duty,” he said. 

“After the HC orders which went in favour of us, I had gone to collect my consignment of around 1,600 bags. I was bewildered to see that the cement had thickened and lost its property. This was the condition even as the sacks were stored in the middle of the storage. The consignments of other cement importers too has been spoilt,” he said. 

Chatha said a bag of Pakistani cement normally used to cost between Rs 250-Rs 300 after paying normal duty. Now it invites an import duty of Rs 800 each bag. 

On the other hand, the Indian cement suppliers, which used to offer a bag of cement at Rs 275, were now asking nothing less than Rs 470 per bag, he said. 

Besides cement, around 6,000 bags of dry dates, 500 metric tonne of limestone, gypsum and inorganic chemicals and drugs in bulk are still lying at the cargo hold of the ICP, Attari, for want of customs clearance.

The Indian importers had pleaded their cause in the High Court which had further directed the authorities to release the withheld goods that had arrived from Pakistan till the duty hours i.e. till 5 pm of February 16 on normal duty charges. The notification was received at 8 pm and was uploaded at 8.45 pm. However, the goods could not be cleared as the traders were asked to pay the demurrage charges.

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