In T&T: Distributor calls for food tax break

18 September 2012


A way to (partially) relieve the high incidence of tax on local food consumers?

Removing import duties and value added tax (VAT) on certain staple goods would help reduce food costs, a prominent food distributor has said.

Former president of the Supermarkets Association and CEO of ADM Import and Export Distributors, Balliram Maharaj, has sent a letter to Finance Minister Larry Howai outlining what he believes will best help bring down the country’s ever-increasing food import bill- costs that are inevitably passed on to the consumer.

“Our country is still far off from producing the foods that are consumed daily. Wheat, soya, dairy products, meats, beans, sugar, rice and corn … carry duties and VAT, which are unfortunately absorbed by the consumer,” Maharaj said.

He said, in 2008, import duties had been suspended on certain products like dried goods, but the duties had recently been returned.

“In order to keep food prices at an affordable level to the consumer, it is imperative that you re-examine the duties and taxes attached to these food products,” he wrote to Howai.

Maharaj suggested that the import duties and VAT be removed on key products like prunes, raisins, currants, sultanas, cherries, mixed peel, ghee, rice, sugar and pork tails.

To stimulate the local food market of products such as cassava, sweet potatoes, breadfruit and plantains, Maharaj said incentives should be given to farmers to produce larger amounts as substitutes to French fries.

“French fries are imported duty free, but I am recommending taxes be added to this item to reduce our food import bill, and prepare people for a world food crisis,” he said.

He added that because crime remained a major issue for businessmen, there should neither be VAT nor duty on closed circuit cameras and other surveillance equipment, and a 200 per cent tax break on the cost to both private citizens and businesses.

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