With the 3rd round of the India-UK (United Kingdom) Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiation over on 6th May, talks on the Alcohol and Beverages sector are awaited. With both nations keen to announce the FTA by Diwali 2022, various stakeholders from the alcohol industry have been making requests to the government for reduction in duties over a time frame for finished products as well as bulk imports.
Nita Kapoor, CEO of the International Spirits and Wines Association of India (ISWAI) told CNBC TV18 that imported whisky as a finished product, both Bottled in Origin (BIO) and Bottled in India (BII) comprises of a mere 2 percent of the total liquor industry of 327 million cases in our country.
She pointed out that while there is no customs duty on Indian alcohol when imported into the UK, she batted for reduction of the current 150 percent customs duty for alcohol imported into India to generate more jobs and investments through the bottling of blended Scotch whisky and the use of bulk Scotch whisky in Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL).
However, she feels that the emphasis should not just be on tariffs but also on the economic advantage to the domestic industry.
Executive Deputy Chairman of Allied Blenders and Distillers (ABD), Shekhar Ramamurthy sought reciprocity and a fair access to the UK market for fine quality Indian alcohol, even as he reiterated his recommendation for lowering of duties from 150 percent to 75 percent over the next 5 years.
He added that he wants Indian whiskies to sell in the UK as ‘Indian Whiskies’ and not be barred by their government as it doesn’t meet their self-made norms.
Explaining that most Indian whiskies are now made from grain and the deterrent of calling out an input of neutral alcohol from molasses in India doesn’t hold true any longer, he pointed out the need to consider differences in climatic conditions between India and the UK while stipulating maturity periods for alcohol.
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