Govt may cut duty on exports of steel, iron ore as prices cool

Published on Sep 19, 2022 12:00 AM IST

New Delhi: The government may reduce duties on exports of iron ore and steel intermediates as higher levies on them have adversely impacted the country’s overall mercantile exports, according to two officials

As global demand for the commodities have slumped, concerns for their domestic availability has been eased. (Mint)
As global demand for the commodities have slumped, concerns for their domestic availability has been eased. (Mint)
ByRajeev Jayaswal

New Delhi: The government may reduce duties on exports of iron ore and steel intermediates as higher levies on them have adversely impacted the country’s overall mercantile exports, according to two officials. High duties on these inputs are no longer required because their prices have sobered now and supplies have outstripped demand, they added.

As global demand for these items has slumped, concerns for their domestic availability have been eased. Data is being analysed and a decision on reducing export duties on these items is under process along with calibrations in duties on other products, the officials said, asking not to be named. The finance ministry on May 22 imposed export duties ranging from 15% to 45% on inputs for iron and steel in a move to increase their availability for the domestic manufacturers.

“Calibration of customs duties is one of the instruments to ensure supplies of essential commodities, raw materials, intermediaries and inputs to domestic consumers, particularly MSMEs [micro, small and medium enterprises] at reasonable rates, and also to keep inflationary pressures under check. The government is constantly revising duties based on inputs it gets from the ground,” one of the officials said.

Union ministries for finance and commerce did not respond to an email queries on this matter.

Commenting on a marginal increase in consumer price index-based inflation on September 12, the finance ministry said in a tweet: “Prices of major inputs like iron ore and steel have sobered in the global markets.” According to the ministry, the headline inflation recorded “a moderate increase” to 7% in August from 6.71% in July this year, which is “attributable both to an adverse base effect and an increase in food and fuel prices, the transient components” of the CPI inflation.

A second official, with direct knowledge of the matter, said there is a sequential dip in India’s export growth and some items, such as iron ore and steel, have faced problems due to high export duties. “The government will item-wise assess reasons for the fall in exports and take appropriate measures in right time,” he said.

According to provisional official data, there has been year-on-year drop in exports growth for the last two consecutive months – July and August, 2022. Data released on August 12 showed India’s mercantile exports in July posted 2.14% year-on-year growth at $36.27 billion, which was substantially lower than the previous month, when exports saw over 23.5% y-o-y growth at $40,13 billion (in June 2022). The growth further dipped to 1.62% in August 2022 at $33.92 billion, latest official data released on September 14 said.

Latest available data shows exports of iron ore fell by 69.14% at $642.56 million in April-July 2022 as compared to $2,082.12 million ($2.08 billion) in the same period the previous year. Similarly, base exports of iron and steel also fell by 21.33% at about $6.1 billion in the first five months of the current financial year compared to over $7.7 billion in the same period last year. On the other hand, imports of iron and steel have surged by over 37.8% to $4.84 billion in April-July 2022 as compared to $3.51 billion in April-July 2021.

“While exports have gone down, there is a rapid growth in imports of iron and steel (commodity group), which is a matter of concern and needs remedial action,” an industry expert said, citing latest data. According to the official data released on September 14, the commodity group – iron and steel – showed over 32% import growth at $1.76 billion.

Ajay Sahai, director general and chief executive of the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO), said: “There is a need to review duty structures of commodities like iron ore and steel intermediaries. High export duties were imposed to ensure their domestic availability. Now, global demands have slumped due to various geopolitical reasons; hence, a review is needed to boost Indian exports.”

A finance ministry report issued on Saturday said exports play an important role in India’s economic growth. “Indian economy becomes a global one as the share of exports in GDP [gross domestic product] increased by more than three times since independence, from 6.4% in 1950-51 to 21.5% in 2021-22,” it said in the latest edition of Monthly Economic Review for August.

“The impact of geo-political tensions on India’s trade volumes is manifest in sequential decline in exports arising from a slowdown in advanced economies although on the import side, trade flows continue to be robust following an unabated level of economic activity in the country. However, a still elevated level of commodity prices has increased India’s merchandise trade deficit to USD 27.9 billion in August 2022,” it added.

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