Restrictions ended for marble import but duty raised

Source: Business Standard, Sept 19, 2016

New Delhi: The government has removed all quantitative restrictions on import of marble, beside a lower Minimum Import Price (MIP), while raising the duty. It takes effect from October 1.

The earlier policy, notified in 2014-15, allowed  total annual import of 800,000 tonnes, with an MIP of $325 a tonne, for rough marble and travertine, a form of limestone deposited by mineral springs. The MIP for these two would be $200 a tonne, on import of marble slabs would be $40 a sq metre. For granite slabs, the MIP has been reduced to $50 a sq metre.

Alongside, it has increased the basic customs duty on import of marble and travertine blocks to 40 per cent, from 10 per cent at present.  Similarly, that for import of marble slabs and granite slabs has been doubled from 10 per cent to 20 per cent in the new policy.

Marble dealers have been asking for being allowed to import rough marble blocks under Open General Licensing, alleging the present system favours big traders in the business.

“Of over 5,000 marble stakeholders, the licence quota of 800,000 tonnes is being availed by only 472 big ones,” the Delhi Marble Dealers Association had said after meeting commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman in February.

Scrapping the quota system would see the availability of raw material to go up and  reopening of sick processing units, they say. There exists a large demand-supply gap, especially for rough marble blocks.The association has also argued for MIP removal, saying this would help check over- invoicing by importers and create barriers for money laundering. The Special Investigation Team on undisclosed money had supported this.

India meets the bulk of its rough marble requirement through imports. Demand is pegged at 48 million tonnes and domestic supply is capped at 116 mt. The marble industry is concentrated in Rajasthan and Gujarat.

The country imported nearly $260 million of marble and travertine blocks in 2015-16, up from $238.8 mn a year before.

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