Fraudulently imported popcorn maize has badly affected Indian farmers, who have been forced to sell 30 lakh kg locally grown maize as poultry feed and at half the production cost.
Imported maize is available at Rs 25 per kg whereas the locally grown maize is sold at Rs 30 per kg. This led to the local stock piling up, which subsequently got infected by pests and had to be sold as poultry feed at Rs 8.4 to Rs 9 per kg, while the production cost was around Rs 15 per kg. In the last five months, the farmers had to sell 300 trucks, each containing 10 tonnes of popcorn maize, at this price.
Venu Akula, secretary of Popcorn Maize Growers’ and Traders’ Association said an equal quantity, which was also infected by pests, was lying unsold. “But, the farmers are holding on to the stock thinking they might get a better price,” Akula said.
The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) had, last month, raided 13 importers for illegally importing popcorn maize.
Importers are allowed to bring in popcorn maize duty-free only under the “actual users condition”.
This means importers have to turn the maize into popcorn or any other product for end use and distribute the same by themselves.
However, during raids it was found that none of the 13 importers adhered to the condition. They were selling the maize in its raw form. Most of them did not even have popcorn manufacturing units or machines.
Investigations also revealed that the import racket had been going on since 2002-2003 with Rs 120 crore-worth maize fraudulently imported into the country till date.
The total duty on the illegal import works out to Rs 60 crore, with the DRI so far recovering Rs 18 crore. However, no arrests have been made so far.
Akula said popcorn maize is commercial corn, meant exclusively for human consumption. “But because of the racket, farmers are forced to sell it as poultry feed,” Akula added.