India asked to cut bitter duties on Angostura

March 6th, 2008 - 1:57 pm ICT by admin  

By Paras Ramoutar
Port of Spain, March 6 (IANS) High customs, excise and other levies on Angostura aromatic bitters (AAB), a premier export of Trinidad and Tobago, might be renegotiated with India, a top official of the company has said. In India, the bitter is treated as liquor as it contains 44.7 percent alcohol and invites high customs and countervailing duties, accordingly. This apart, states also levy a heavy sales tax on the aromatic bitter.

“It is not viewed, as it should be, as a food flavouring or additive that is used only in very small quantities,” Yorick Fonesca, director of business development in India for CL World Brands, told IANS over email.

CL World Brands is a UK-based spirits group that owns Scotch whiskies from Burn Stewart Distillers, Angostura rums and Cognac brand Hine.

The company, situated in Scotland, is owned by Caribbean conglomerate CL Financial, which has interests in fields including insurance, real estate, energy and petrochemicals and media and communications.

Angostura bitters is a concentrated flavouring agent for food and beverages. A bitters is a preparation of herbs and citrus dissolved in alcohol or glycerine with a bitter or bittersweet flavour.

Fonesca said that since liquor was taxed separately by Indian states, discussions would soon commence to iron out the total taxes on AAB, which is sourced from Trinidad and Tobago.

“We have not yet taken up this matter with individual excise authorities at the state level, but we may do so in the future,” he said.

“Angostura bitter is treated as a special item in the Indian Customs Manual and is subject to a relatively lower import duty of around six percent.”

It has been a challenge to convince Indian customs of this special treatment, he said.

He also pointed out that the bitter is subject to regulations in Indian states. “Accordingly, one state’s imposition of (sales tax) duty may vary to the other one, as the states are not bound by the Customs Manual’s regulations.”

Fonseca said that the brand has to be registered in each state it is marketed, subject to high registration fees that apply to regular liquor brands.

He pointed out that the volume of AAB sold in India was hard to ascertain, since a lot of parallel stock enters the market from the US.

“We expect to compile the official volumes once we are fully registered and established across the various key markets.”

He said that AAB is retailed through liquor stores in the country.

Fonseca noted that AAB is a well-known brand in India, especially in the armed forces, civil services, society club circles, premium bars and five-star hotels.

“We are working to familiarise a younger generation of chefs with the uniqueness of Angostura bitter and its versatility in beverage, as well as entree dishes and desserts.”

J.B. Siegert first made AAB in 1824 in Angostura town in Venezuela. AAB may be distinguished from all other bitters by its fine flavour and aromatic odour.

It is one of Trinidad and Tobago’s flagship products and credited as being produced here.

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