India to keep a closer vigil on imports of coal, aluminium and copper

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Rolls of copper sheets. An IAC file photo.

Just like the Steel Import Monitoring System (SIMS) that captures details of steel imports on a weekly basis, the government will soon put in place similar mechanisms to monitor imports of coal, aluminium and copper with the aim of capturing disaggregated data to facilitate effective monitoring and policy intervention.

India’s imports of coal and coke, etc, dropped 14.2 per cent year-on-year in FY’20 to $22.46 billion. The imports of aluminium and products declined by 19.3 per cent last fiscal to $4.47 billion, and those of copper and the products made of it eased by 3.7 per cent to $5.15 billion.

On the pattern of US Steel Import Monitoring and Analysis (SIMA) system, SIMS was developed for the steel sector by the ministry of commerce and industry to provide advance information about steel imports to both the government as well as relevant stakeholders, including dealers.

SIMS came into effect from November last year. The SIMS data gives details of the products registered for imports and the importers, total quantity and even the quantity of imports despite the items available domestically. The SIMS data, thus, also helps the domestic industry in preparing the action plan to domestically manufacture specific steel coming in as imports.

The government’s move to launch similar mechanism will also help domestic producers of coal and non-ferrous metal such as Vedanta, Nalco, Hindalco and Hindustan Copper to chalk out their strategies for substituting imports.

The steel ministry made a presentation before the commerce minister last month and it was informed that the system was also being adopted by mines and coal ministries for monitoring imports of aluminium, copper and coal.

Under SIMS, all steel products that are entering into the country require prior registration. The registration process is online and automatic. The information about the steel imports provided by the importers on the SIMS is monitored by the steel ministry. However, since SIMS involves registrations for future imports, the data indicate registrations made in a particular month and not the actual imports – an import registered on SIMS in July 2020 might actually be imported in August 2020.

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