Indian copper industry may end up shedding 10,000 jobs by 2022: IIFT

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A survey conducted by Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) reveals that assailed by unchecked imports, Indian copper industry may end up shedding 10,000 jobs by 2022.

“Increasing imports pose huge challenge to domestic copper industry by way of threat to downstream final goods producers in India, hitting livelihood of several persons directly or indirectly employed in the industry, due to closure of units and resulting in loss of employment. On the basis of the information collected through survey by IIFT, at least 50 firms in recent past have closed operations”, says the report.

The domestic copper industry, comprising the primary and downstream segments, is estimated to be worth Rs 60,000 crore per annum, employing over 100,000 people directly and generating indirect employment many times over.

Copper manufacturing boasts of a nameplate capacity of one million tonnes per annum (mtpa), sufficient to cater to the domestic demand pegged at 0.7 million tonnes. With major players like Adani Group and Vedanta Ltd having firmed up ramp-up plans, the rated capacity is envisaged at 2.4 mtpa by 2025 when domestic consumption is projected to touch 1.5 million tonnes per year.

Imports of copper catalysed by Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), have grabbed a 40 per cent share in the domestic consumption pie.

Copper producers are flustered by existing duty anomalies which seemingly bolster imports at the expense of local production. Imports of finished goods with countries bound by Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) attracting zero duty. Ironically, India’s copper producers have to fork out 2.5 per cent duty on import of copper concentrates, a raw material they are forced to import due to a lack of good quality copper deposits in the country. Domestic availability of the raw material meets only a measly four per cent of the industry’s requirement.

The inverted duty structure explains the immense growth in imports- they have soared 100 per cent CAGR (compounded annual growth rate) from FTA countries in the last six years. Import of refined copper (amply produced in India) is riding high only on account of the duty arbitrage under ASEAN FTA. The Indian Primary Copper Producers’ Association (IPCPA) has urged the Ministry of Finance to abolish the 2.5 per cent duty on copper concentrates to help maintain the viability of the industry and overcome the inverted duty structure.

Shekhar Ghosh is consulting editor, Indoasiancommodities.com. He has edited and written for publications like Business India, Business Standard, Business Today, Outlook and many other international publications. He can be reached at shekhar.ghosh@indoasiancommodities.in.

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