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Indian Customs delays clearing of food items worth Rs 2000 crore

Indian Customs delays clearing of food items worth Rs 2000 crore

MUMBAI: Restaurant managers in star hotels across the country have faced a tough time serving continental dishes such as lamb rack, Norwegian Salmon and cooked caviar because of the short supply of imported sauces, cheese and other condiments. Since January, many of crucial ingredients were stuck with the Customs Department at various ports.

The Department cannot clear these goods because under the new rules and regulations of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, these items violate labeling regulations.

A senior Customs Department official told that a large number of containers with goods worth about ₹2,000 crore are stuck. “Some attempts are being made to re-label the packages, but the process is slow. Some items might cross the ‘best use’ date,” the official said.

Sanjeev Shekhar, General Manager of Hotel Marine Plaza in South Mumbai, said his hotel has been paying higher prices for imported ingredients since January. Hence, in April the rates of all dishes on the menu were increased by 15-20 per cent. The hotel has stocked certain ingredients but this is depleting fast. If supply does not improve then “the situation could get difficult,” he said.

The price of cranberry sauce has risen from ₹340 per 125 ml to ₹475; Parmesan Cheese from ₹480 per 200 gm to ₹650. The price of US made premium coffee Maxwell has increased by ₹480 per 200 gm to ₹700.

Mumbai-based Arambhan Group, with interests in hospitality and offshore catering and a food supplier to customers such as the US Navy, has been impacted in a big way.

Alfred Arambhan, Chairman of the Group, said that his company’s bottom-line has been hit. However, it cannot pass on the increased input costs to customers due to fixed-rate contracts.

Prices have become very volatile and traders are charging based on the availability of items and the market demand, he said.

The shortage of these food items has come as manna from heaven for many traders, who have raised prices by 50-80 per cent.