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Baba Ramdev welcomes restrictions on Palm oil imports by Modi govt, says it will help farmers and domestic refined oil industry

It was widely speculated that Indian government had taken the decision in response to Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed criticising the Modi government over the recently enacted Citizenship Amendment Act.

Yoga guru Baba Ramdev has welcomed the decision of union government restricting the import of refined palm oil. He congratulated prime minister Narendra Modi and Commerce & Industries minister Piyush Goyal for taking such an important decision. In a video message issued on Social Media, the Patanjali group promoter said that the decision will work as a revitaliser for the domestic refined oil industry.

He said that it will be beneficial for farmers, as the imported palm oil was a big concern for domestic palm plantations. Ramdev added that this will have a big impact on edible oil production in the country, which will boost self-reliance in the sector. He said that thousands of people employed in the refined oil industry had lost their jobs, and they will now get fresh opportunities for employment. Ramdev further added that this will help in boosting the GDP, and contribute towards achieving the goal of a $ 5 trillion economy.

Baba Ramdev added that he expects that the govt will take such big and tough decisins regularly.

On January 8, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade had issued a notification moving refined palm oil from free category to restricted category for imports. This change means now importers will have to obtain a licence to import refined palm oil and palmolein into the country.

India is the largest importer of palm oil, with major sources of import being Malaysia, Indonesia and Nepal. Malaysia ships the bulk of palm oil imported by India, which means this country will be most affected by the decision to restrict import of the oil. Moreover, while India imports refined palm oil from Malaysia, from Indonesia largely crude oil is imported. Therefore, although Malaysia’s export will be hit, Indonesia will benefit from the decision as there is no restriction on import of crude oil, and Indian refiners are expected to import increased amount of crude palm oil after the decision.

Due to this reason, it was widely speculated that Indian government had taken the decision in response to Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed criticising the Modi government over the recently enacted Citizenship Amendment Act. On 20 December, Mahathir had reportedly said, “I am sorry to see that India, which claims to be a secular state, is now taking action to deprive some Muslims of their citizenship.” He had added that CAA will lead to chaos and instability and everyone will suffer. Before that, he had commented that India had invaded and occupied Kashmir.

But the Indian government has denied the allegations saying the decision was not country-specific and said that decision to restrict refined palm oil import was a commercial decision. Foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said, “When you are looking at issues related to the import of any product from any country there are basically two factors — one is the commercial decision and the other is defined by the trade policy.” Clarifying that import of refined palm oil has only been restricted and not banned, Kumar said, “in this case it is defined by the trade policy. There are basically three categories under which you can import items – open, restricted and prohibited. This is not under prohibited category. So why do you presume that this means imports will be stopped?”

But significantly he added that bilateral relationships between do come into play in taking business decisions. “The state of relationship is one of the factors that businesses look at before doing business,” he had said, further adding, If I am an importer and I have to import a certain product from a country, I would certainly keep that at the back of my mind, as to how the status of the two countries are.”

Commenting on relations with Malaysia, the foreign ministry spokesman said that India and Malaysia have age old ties that the Malaysian government should keep in mind while making statements. He said that India had expressed its concerns on different occasions but the Malaysian government had continued to make remarks in the same vein. India was hopeful that there would be a rethink on the matter at some stage, he added.

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