New Delhi: Ahead of Budget 2020, industry body Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) has announced an ‘important’ increase in import duty of fruits and vegetable pulps and concentrates. The hike, as per the body, has been effected to ‘safeguard interests of farmers.’ Also Read - Budget 2020: 'Modi's Consultation Only For Crony Capitalist Friends,' Says Rahul Gandhi

In its pre-budget memorandum, the CII stated, “Customs duty on imports of fruit/vegetable pulps must be enhanced substantially to the levels prevailing for commodities like coffee (100%), tea (100%), garlic (100%), rice (80%), millets (70%) etc.” Also Read - 'Had Already Met Economists on Dec 20', Sitharaman's Office Hits Back at Congress After it Mocks BJP Over FM's Absence From Pre-Budget Meet

Explaining why it was important to protect the interests of farmers, especially for apply and orange growers, was of ‘paramount importance,’ the memorandum stated that although the customs duty rates on the import of apple (75%) and orange (40%) were higher, farmers were still suffering as the beverage industry continues to prefer to import these fruits in their concentrated form. Also Read - Ahead of Union Budget 2020, PM Modi Meets Top Economists, Discusses Steps to Revive Economy

“Concentrated can be imported at lower rates of 50% for apples and 35% for oranges,” the memorandum stated. Explaining this rationale, the CII said that importers will benefit as they will incur lower freight costs by importing the fruits in concentrate form rather than importing the whole fruit.

The body in its pre-budget memorandum further suggested that the duty on import of fruit and vegetable pulp and concentrates be increased to at least three times the duty rate applicable for the respective fruits. Further, in order to provide a level-playing field to the indigenous industry, which suffers from disadvantages such as higher rate of interest, land and power, the industry body recommended a continuation of 10 % peak rate of customs duty for the year 2020-21.

The Budget session of the Parliament is scheduled to begin from January 31. Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present the Budget a day later.