On February 1, Indian finance minister Arun Jaitley announced that duties for extra virgin and virgin olive oil were increasing from 12.5 percent to a whopping 30 percent, while those for refined olive oil (olive oil and olive pomace oil) would jump from 20 to 35 percent.
These duties are excessive looking at the fact that India doesn’t produce any commercial level olive crop.- Rahul Upadhyay, Indian Olive Association
Olive oil was included on a long list of edible vegetable oils subject to the increase which also included groundnut (peanut), cottonseed, safflower seed, saffola, coconut, palm kernel, linseed, corn, castor and sesame oils.
While some praised the government’s move as a way to safeguard the interests of domestic producers, the Indian Olive Association (IOA) called the increase “exorbitant and extraordinary”. “There is no domestic production of olive oil in India; hence there are no domestic farmers who are affected by olive oil imports or who need protection,” the association stated in a press release dated February 1.
India’s imports of olive oil are expected to rise by 20 percent, according to the Indian Olive Association. Due to rising demands for olive oil among urban Indian consumers, it is estimated that 13,500 tons will need to be imported during the current fiscal year.
The IOA press release also points out other reasons the move is illogical when it comes to the olive oil industry. While prices of other types of edible oil have declined in India in recent years, the cost of olive oil from supplier countries like Spain and Italy has increased in the past two years because of a fall in production. Also, the appreciation of the Euro against the Rupee has resulted in an even higher cost for Indian importers.
Indian import duties imposed on olive oil have been steadily increasing since 2014 when the government launched its “Made in India” program with the aim to encourage domestically manufactured goods. Duties on olive oil increased from 0 percent for crude oil and 7.5 percent for refined oil in 2013, to 7.5 and 15 percent respectively in 2015, before further rising to 12.5 and 20 percent in 2017.