Monday, 17 November 2014

NA STANDING COMMITTEE AGAINST GST ON AGRICULTURE INPUTS, MACHINERY

The National Assembly Standing Committee on National Food Security and Research recommended abolition of General Sales Tax (GST) on agriculture inputs and machinery for decreasing cost of production and providing relief to farmers. The recommendation was made in a meeting of the committee presided over by Malik Shakir Bashir Awan. “No farmer will be inclined to grow cash crops such as sugarcane, wheat and rice if the government fails to eradicate GST on agriculture machinery and inputs,” majority of the members opined.

Sikandar Hayat Bosan Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research told the committee that he had written a letter to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to form a committee consisting representatives of all the provinces to review national and international situation of agriculture. “Review all kinds of taxes and decrease production cost of various crops,” he added. He said he had raised the issue of GST on tubewells during the last meeting of the Economic Co-ordination Committee (ECC). He urged all the members of the committee to raise the issue in the National Assembly as this committee can only give recommendations. The minister also informed the committee that the government is taking serious steps on Afghan Transit Trade and in this regard the government assured the committee that Indian wheat would not be allowed to enter Pakistani territory for its export to Afghanistan.

The committee also recommended sending the case of import of sub-standard wheat from Ukraine by a private party despite sufficient stock of wheat in the country to Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to bring the influential mafia involved in the crime to book. Officials of Punjab and Sindh Agriculture Department told the committee that the import of 0.6 million tons of wheat from Ukraine would create an alarming situation as presently there is sufficient stock of wheat in the country. MNA Rao Muhammad Ajmal Khan and Muhammad Raza Hayat Hiraj of Pakistan Muslim League (PLM-N) have expressed annoyance on approval of support price of wheat as Rs 1,300 per 40-kg without the consultation of the standing committee by the government.

MNA Rao Muhammad Ajmal Khan said the government fixed wheat support price or minimum guaranteed wheat price without the consultation of farmers. “Farmers will not grow main cash crops if the authorities fail in providing adequate price to them,” he said. Muhammad Raza Hayat Hiraj said that the committee has recommended increase in the support price of wheat, but the government approved it without taking into consideration the recommendation of the committee. “If the committee is unable to provide relief to farmers and increase support price there is no need to call this meeting in future,” he said. The MNFS&R secretary said that provincial governments after due deliberation with their respective authorities agreed on support price of wheat as Rs 1,300 per 40 kg from Rs 1,200 per 40-kg.

MNA Muhammad Safdar alleged that an influential mafia has imported wheat from Ukraine and now the mafia is mixing it with the local wheat damage in the recent flood. The sale of such substandard wheat not only continued in Karachi, but is it also available in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa now. Seerat Asghar said that the Department of Plant Protection (DPP) so far physically inspected 444,471 tons and got analysed utilising the analytical facilities. “As many as 384 containerised shipments were inspected and got analysed out of them 50 were rejected on technical grounds, 222 were released after fumigation due to presence of live insects and 112 were found to be clear,” he said. He said according to SRO-2008 importers were to submit the pre-shipment clearance and issuance of release order. The shipments that fulfilled the criterion were only given release orders, he said. Asghar said that the quality was tested through PARC that shows that out of 40 samples analysed so far, 14 were short of minimum protein and gluten levels, 9 were short of test weight and 6 were short of foreign matter requirement. None of the samples that do not qualify the quality standards were allowed or given release order.—Agencies

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