The government was urged to abolish sales tax on agriculture machinery and input in budget 2014-15 and enhance the budgetary allocation for Ministry of National Food Security and Research (NFS&R). This recommendation was made by the National Assembly Standing Committee on National Food Security and Research on Wednesday.
The committee maintained that agriculture is the backbone of the country’s economy therefore the present government needs to take special measures in the budget 2014-15 to provide relief to farmers and equip them with modern technology. They also recommended legislation against those who sell low quality seeds illegally and suggested the enhancement of challan charge with imprisonment.
Seerat Asghar, Secretary NFS&R informed the committee that the government has approved Rs 1070 million indicative budget for the NFS&R for the fiscal year 2014-15 against the demand of Rs 3 billion. Last year, the government allocated Rs 750 million for the Ministry of NFS&R, he said.
Asghar said that his Ministry proposed to abolish custom duty on agriculture machinery and sales tax on tractors to equip agriculture sector with modern equipment. The NFS&R also proposed to abolish sales tax and duty on agriculture input, he said. Rao Muhammad Ajmal Khan submitted the demand of farmers associations to the committee which requested the government to maintain last year’s per unit electricity rates on agriculture connections. They also demanded that sales tax on fertilizer and tractors in use by the agriculture sector be abolished; and proposed to fix agriculture income tax on per unit basis to ensure that rain-fed area rates bare half that of the irrigated areas.
The farmers associations’ demand that the government restore eight per cent mark-up on agriculture loans was unanimously approved by the committee. Muhammad Safdar urged the Ministry to establish storage facilities in the areas which produce various fruits and vegetables and urged the Ministry to set up seed certification laboratories in Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir.
Dr Shakeel Ahmad of NFS&R informed the committee that the mandate and function of federal seed certification registration department includes controlling the quality of seed, registration of growers and certification of seed. He said that 28 seed certification laboratories are functioning in the country and the main lab is in Islamabad. Dr Ahmed revealed that this year the department has registered 585 challans against the illegal and unauthorised seed sellers in different parts of the country and also confiscated 30,000-kg of illegal seeds.
Dr Shakeel said that the federal cabinet has approved the draft of seed amendment bill 2014 and it would be tabled before the parliament. The bill would ensure registration of genetically modified plant varieties (GMOs) and would allow private sector to set up their own accredited seed testing laborites, he said. Faisal Iftikhar, CEO Fisheries Development Board (FDB), informed the committee of the potential and importance of the FDB. He said that the Board was established in 2007 and introduced agriculture and shrimp farming, Tilapia farming, and cage fish farming. Export potential of Pakistan is expected to be more than US $2 billion if government properly supports this sector, he said.
He said that till 2012, no commercial fish feed was available in Pakistan, but with the start of Tilapia farming two commercial fish feed mills have been established. Now, commercial feed is available for Tilapia, carps and trout; however no commercial feed is available for shrimp in the country, he said. MNA Malik Shakir Bashir Awan presided over the meeting while Muhammad Safdar, Chaudhry Nazeer Ahmad, Chaudhry Iftikhar Nazir, Romina Khurshid Alam, Faqir Sher Muhmmmad, Rao Muhammad Ajmal Khan, Muhmmad Salman Khan Baloch, Secretary NFS&R and other senior official were also present on the occasion.
(Source – http://www.blackseagrain.net/novosti/pakistan-government-urged-to-abolish-st-on-agriculture-machinery-input)