A new 30 per cent tariff on imports of chickpeas and lentils to India will hit Australia’s two most important pulse crops hard in the middle of the harvest season when much of the export trade is getting under way for the year, Pulse Australia says.
The Indian Government announced the tariff on 21 December, effective immediately. The move follows a 50 per cent tariff imposed on field peas announced about a month earlier.
Pulse Australia Chairman Ron Storey said about 200,000 tonnes of Australian chickpeas and lentils, valued at around $150 million, were in transit to India and could be affected.
Pulse Australia believes the Indian Government should provide a tariff exemption for those imports contracted and shipped prior to the new tariff being announced, he said.
“Indian buyers and Australia sellers have contracted in good faith, and the prior conditions should apply to permit smooth execution of those contracts.”
Pulse Australia had requested this through Australian Government channels in India and was also working with Canada, whose position would be similar to Australia, to clarify the matter.
There was also a long term issue of the impact of tariffs on food security, Storey said.
“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.”
Market interventions such as those seen over recent months in India create uncertainty and commercial risk for countries such as Australia, which strives to be a reliable food exporter.
Pulse Australia and the wider grains industry plan to work with Australian Government agencies to address issues of international trade with India.
Australian growers could take heart from signs of stronger demand for Australian chickpeas and lentils from other markets such as Bangladesh and Pakistan, Pulse Australia said, and recent business would help keep exports moving.