Friday, 14 November 2014

NA standing committee asks govt to abolish GST on agri inputs

National Assembly Standing Committee on National Food Security and Research on Friday recommended the government to abolish general sales tax (GST) over agriculture input and machineries, leading to decrease in the production cost of agriculture produce and thus providing relief to the farmers in the country.
The committee meeting was held at Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) and presided by Malik Shakir Bashir Awan. No farmer would be inclined to grow cash crops like sugarcane, wheat and rice if the government failed to eradicate GST over agriculture machineries and inputs, majority of the members of the committee said.
Minister for National Food Security and Research Sikandar Hayat Bosan told the committee that he had written a letter to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif about forming a committee consisting of representatives of all provinces for revival of agriculture, to review all kinds of taxes in order to reduce production cost of various crops.
He said that he had raised the issue of GST over the tube-well during the last meeting of Economic Coordination Committee (ECC). He urged all members of the committee to raise this issue in the National Assembly as this committee can only give recommendations.
The committee also recommended sending the case of import of substandard wheat from Ukraine by a private party, despite sufficient sock of wheat in the country, to Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to bring the influential mafia involved in this crime to justice.
Officials of the Punjab and Sindh Agriculture Department told the committee that the import of 0.6 million tons wheat from Ukraine would create alarming situation in the country as presently there is sufficient stocks of wheat in the country.
MNAs Rao Muhammad Ajmal Khan and Muhammad Raza Hayat Hiraj of Pakistan Muslim League (PLM-N) expressed annoyance over approval of support price of wheat at Rs 1,300 per 40kg by the government without the consultation of the standing committee.
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.
Hiraj said that the committee has recommended increasing 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 then there is no need to call this meeting in future,” he said.
The MNFS&R secretary Seerat Asghar said that provincial governments after due deliberation with their respective authorities agreed on support price of wheat at 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 damaged in the recent flood. The sale of such substandard wheat not only continues in Karachi but it is also now available in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), he said.
Seerat Asghar said that the Department of Plant Protection (DPP) had so far physically inspected 444,471 metric tons and got analysed by 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.
Asghar said that according to SRO-2008 the importers were to submit the pre-shipment clearance and issuance of release order. The shipments that fulfilled the criterion were only given released orders, he said.
He said that quality was being watched through PARC that showed that out of 40 samples analysed so far, 14 were short of minimum protein and gluten levels, 19 were short of minimum falling number, 9 were short of test weight and 6 were short of foreign matter requirement. None of the samples that did not qualify the phytosanitary conditions were allowed or given release order.

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