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ECTAD calls for tax on tobacco, alcohol to subsidise agriculture

ECTAD calls for tax on tobacco, alcohol to subsidise agriculture

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Chief Coordinator of the Eastern Caribbean Trading Agriculture and Development Organization (ECTAD), Jethro Greene, believes the time has come for government to impose a cess on non-essential items in order to subsidise agriculture rather than continue to regulate certain imports.

His comment comes in light of the recent controversial Produce and Commodity Act which gives government the authority to take over the marketing and processing of any produce it so desires while determining the price at which they would be purchased.{{more}}

The profits are used to subsidise farmers.

The Chamber of Commerce which previously expressed concern about the act has now accepted it following a meeting with the prime minister.

ECTAD supported the chamber but still maintained that an increase in tax on luxury items should be used to raise funds for subsiding agriculture.

“I think we should do away with it (the law) altogether and start raising the tax on non-essential products such as alcohol and tobacco, this would in turn replace the subsidy from sugar imports,” Greene told SEARCHLIGHT Business.

Currently, government is the sole importer of sugar but Greene believes that the Ralph Gonsalves administration should throw open the doors to the private sector.

The introduction of the Value Added Tax next year should also put more money in government coffers to help farmers, Greene maintained.

Meanwhile Head of the local Chamber of Industry and Commerce Martin Bollers said the Chamber remains resolute to challenge any future developments associated with the act that would affect its members and consumers negatively.

He said that the act raises some level of concern in the Chamber.

An official release from the Chamber said: “We acknowledge that there are ‘special circumstances’ in which any government may be required to control the product and trade of a produce and commodity, and we are encouraged that in 31 years thus far these ‘special circumstances’ have whittled down to only sugar, the profits of which are redirected to farmers. However, we look forward to the day when sugar is no longer solely imported and distributed by a state owned enterprise.”

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