Steel Min­istry seeks im­port duty re­duc­tion on cok­ing coal, nickel

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Ahead of the Union Bud­get 2017-18, the Steel Min­istry has sought re­duc­tion in im­port duty on both cok­ing coal and nickel – the two vi­tal com­po­nents in steel mak­ing – a move that may re­vive the sec­tor, a top of­fi­cial said.

In an in­ter­view, Steel Sec­re­tary Aruna Sharma said the de­pen­dence on im­ports is par­tic­u­larly heavy on nickel, cok­ing coal and gas. “What we are dis­cussing is whether there is need to take a re-look at their cus­tom and im­port du­ties. This is still un­der dis­cus­sions. Let's see how it moves out dur­ing the Bud­get,” the Sec­re­tary said.

The Steel Min­istry, in its rec­om­men­da­tions to the Fi­nance Min­istry, has sought bring­ing down the im­port duty on cok­ing, coal, nickel and gas, Sharma said. While the im­port duty on nickel is five per cent, in the case of cok­ing coal, it is 2.5 per cent now.

Sharma also said that in the fu­ture, the re­quire­ment of gas will in­crease in the man­u­fac­tur­ing of pel­lets and added, "Like what the Prime Min­is­ter has said, to­mor­row's econ­omy is go­ing to be gas-based." Pel­lets are small balls of iron ore used in steel mak­ing. To bring down the im­ports of cok­ing coal, Sharma said that her Min­istry was in dis­cus­sions with the Coal Min­istry to in­vest in wash­eries.

"There are two ways of tack­ling im­ports. One is to re­place the im­ports with a bet­ter al­ter­na­tive fuel. So, we are in dis­cus­sions with Coal Min­istry to in­vest in wash­eries and the Coal Min­istry has agreed to in­vest in them so the cok­ing coal im­ports will come down by nearly 30 per cent which is a very good sign for the com­ing years," she said.

In­dia has to heav­ily de­pend on im­port of cok­ing coal, as the do­mes­tic qual­ity has higher ash con­tent which is un­suit­able for the steel in­dus­try with present tech­nol­ogy.

As­sert­ing the need to go for elec­tric-based or gas-based steel pro­duc­tion, she said that "pel­let mak­ing can eas­ily shift to the gas-based thing if it is guar­an­teed at af­ford­able prices." "Now, with the Paris Con­ven­tion, it is manda­tory that we must bring down the car­bon foot­prints. So, that is an­other al­ter­na­tive we are work­ing on," she said.

In­dian Steel As­so­ci­a­tion (ISA), the in­dus­try body rep­re­sent­ing pri­mary steel pro­duc­ers, has also urged the gov­ern­ment to re­duce im­port duty to zero on all the raw ma­te­ri­als used for steel mak­ing.

Sanak Mishra, Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of ISA, said that the As­so­ci­a­tion has also re­quested the gov­ern­ment to re­duce rail­way freight for the steel in­dus­try.

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