It would appear that the National Public has yet again been deceived by the current administration, this time on the issue of import duties of Agricultural Chemicals. During his budget presentation in October 2015 the Finance Minister gave a commitment to farmers that they will be exempted from duties and taxes as the Government attempts to boost agricultural production. His exact statements according to the Hansard were “In pursuit of our objective for achieving food security, we will exempt from all duties and taxes various inputs into the agricultural sector, including approved chemicals, pest control, approved vehicles, approved fishing vessels and equipment. These measures will take effect from January 1, 2016,”
It is quite alarming and shocking that the opposite is occurring contrary to the commitment and statements given by the Finance Minister as a number of large Chemical Importers have reported that they are being forced to pay duties on chemical imports for the first time in their operational History.
One must therefore ask the question, was this a deliberate move by the Government to mislead the public and stakeholders of the Agricultural Sector?
If this dilemma is allowed to prolong it can cause a chain reaction of negative repercussions as farmers will have to pay more to suppliers for their inputs which will then be subsequently reflected in higher prices to consumers. This policy directly threatens our nation’s food security and goal of becoming self-sufficient as well as weakens growth to the agricultural sector at a time in which our economy is in critical need of diversification.
Government must therefore clear the air on this issue as well as work to prevent any further increase in the price of food. In the first quarter of 2016 both Food prices as well as Food inflation increased due to the change in the Value Added Tax regime by the Government as more food items became subjected to VAT while government’s failure to effectively address the Forex shortage also impacted the price of food items.