Tax package to benefit local agri sector — ClarkeThursday, June 28, 2012
BY TANESHA MUNDLE Observer staff reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
AGRICULTURE Minister Roger Clarke says that local farmers stand to benefit greatly from the recently announced tax package despite the harsh criticism levelled against it.
The minister made the remark against his Government's decision to apply additional stamp duties on imported meats, fish, ham and bacon instead of taxing animal feeds, fresh fruits, vegetables, tubers, fish and meat as was proposed in the original package announced in Parliament in early June.
"Much has been said about the recent tax package and I understand that there might be a little squealing here and little squealing there, but it's a chicken-and-egg situation we have to deal with it," he said during Tuesday's launch of the 60th staging of Denbigh Agriculture Industrial and Food Show at ACE Supercentre in White Marl, St Catherine.
"But when one unravels what has been done in terms of this tax package, it's a package that will give the agricultural sector an opportunity to grow and develop and I say so because what we are doing in terms of taxation, we are putting on duty on imported stock into this country," Clarke said.
"It is time our farmers benefit instead of fattening farmers from abroad. And those of us who are tied to the foreign taste will understand that you have to pay for it," he added.
Clarke bemoaned the volume of food imported into the island over the years and the exorbitant cost to the country.
"Imagine this year gone we imported US$930 million worth of food into Jamaica, up from US$800 the year before and the trajectory seems that it is heading towards the billions. But I tell you something, on my watch it will not reach the billion. We are determined that we are going to make a dent in that importation bill," he said.
As such, he said that the ministry will be targeting crops like, Irish potatoes, ginger, turmeric, coffee, cocoa, and onions that will now be grown in abundance and possible exported to other countries.
Sheep and goat production will also be expanded, he said while indicating that the country is currently importing about 80 per cent of sheep and goat meat consumed locally.
He also issued a call for the Opposition to sit with him and work out a strategic plan for the growth and development of the sector, noting that he was committed to implementing programmes and measures that will benefit the country which were started by the Opposition.
He urged the public to support this year's agriculture show, which he labelled "Denbigh with a difference".
Glendon Harris, president of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) and mayor of St James, promises that the show will be the "biggest and best" ever and will part of the nation's 50th Independence anniversary celebrations.
"Denbigh will indeed be celebrating in grand style and splendour, the progressive transition of our sector and simply the resilient nature of our people to showcase the best in agriculture despite challenges and pitfalls," he said.
The show which, runs from July 30-August 1 under the theme 'Grow What We Eat, Eat What We Grow: Denbigh at 60', will have regular features such as the farm queen and national farmer competition, the youth in agriculture village, children village, framers market, motor show, gospel extravaganza and a concert featuring Digcel Rising Starts and other top Jamaican entertainers.
Among the new additions will be an organic village, that will show patrons how the food is produced "from the farm to the fork".
Patrons who visit the show will also be a live feed of the Olympic coverage on big screen televisions courtesy of the JAS and Digicel.
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