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Biscuit manufacturers want excise duty off

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, APRIL 8. Agitated over doubling of excise duty on biscuit from 8 per cent to 16 per cent, the Indian biscuit manufacturers have urged the Union Finance Minister not only to reconsider his decision but go a step further and exempt this segment from excise altogether.

Describing glucose biscuit as a common man's food providing nearly 20 per cent of energy, protein and calcium required by an average adult, the president of the Federation of Biscuit Manufacturers' of India, Mr. Nikhil Sen, told mediapersons today said that there was no justification for the hike which would prove ruinous for the Indian biscuit industry.

``The biscuit industry in the country is reeling under the adverse impact of the levy of excise duty that has been doubled by the Government from 8 per cent to 16 per cent'', he said adding that the steep hike would negatively impact this low margin and high-volume based sector for an increase in prices would obviously affect volumes.

He said the members of the federation had met the Finance Minister, Mr. Yashwant Sinha, and senior officials of the Ministry and Central Board of Excise and Customs, to impress upon them need for removal of the excise duty on biscuit manufacture.

Regretting that biscuit has been clubbed with luxury items like confectionery, chocolates, sauces, jams, cakes, ice- creams and even a non-essential item like pan masala, instead of bracketing it with commonly consumed items like tea, coffee, dairy products, namkeen and others which were fully exempt from excise duty.

The policy followed in granting exemption had the objective of sparing the mass consumption items which were either snacking or nutritious in nature. By this logic, biscuit should be exempted, he argued and pointed towards reversal of the duty on tea, a mass consumption item, last year.

Arguing that all mass consumption items should be treated at par, Mr. Sen said that as it is negligible per capita consumption of biscuit in India at 1.52 kg compared to more than 12 kg in developed countries would fall further.

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