Raise import duty on apples, Himachal CM urges Centre

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Thanking the Union government for according approval to the state’s proposals of about Rs 10,620 crore in the past four years, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur on Thursday demanded the Centre to raise import duty on apples.

Participating in a pre-budget consultation meeting on Union Budget 2022-23 here, the Chief Minister said that there is a need to increase the import duty on apples from 50 per cent to 100 per cent to safeguard the livelihood of 2.5 lakh families in the state.

Apple is the main horticultural crop of Himachal and the state’s primary source of livelihood for a substantial population. However, due to a large influx of imported apples in the national market, prices of Himachal apple have fallen sharply.

“The import duty should be increased and apple should be excluded from the list of fruits and other commodities brought under Open General Licence (OGL),” Thakur said.

The Chief Minister also said that the Airport Authority of India (AAI) has found the site suitable for construction of a green field airport in Mandi district and has also accorded its final technical go-ahead.

“Therefore, this project may be included in the upcoming Union Budget,” he said.

Thakur also demanded to declare the proposed airport as a project of national importance. He said the proposed airport is of strategic importance, as it is in close proximity with Leh. The estimated cost for the construction of the airport is Rs 3,000 crore.

Thakur said the modes of rail and air connectivity are limited in the state and the three existing airports in Shimla, Kullu and Kangra have small runways, making them suitable only for operating small planes.

“Therefore, the airport in Mandi is the need of the hour,” he said.

Thakur also demanded extension of Goods and Services Tax (GST) compensation for the next three years. The state is receiving GST compensation and revenue deficit grant (RDG) as part of the Central assistance and out of this, GST compensation is effective only till June 2022.

Moreover, the RDG will also be reduced as per the recommendations of the 15th Finance Commission, which will adversely affect the finances of the state government. The GST compensation facility should continue, he said.

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