FARMERS and consumers of agricultural products will soon breathe a sigh of relief as the government has announced the scraping of 80 out of 139 levies, in the 2017/18 fiscal year, that have been hogging the agricultural sector for a long time.
The decision is meant to reduce the burden of numerous taxes that farmers have been subjected to; leading to high costs of farm inputs, inflated prices of crops and products to consumers.
Tabling the 2017/18 budget estimates for the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries amounting 267.8 billion/-, the Minister for the docket, Dr Charles Tizeba, said the ministry will also remove 23 and 5 levies charged on livestock and fisheries products respectively, thus bringing to 108, the total of removed taxes and levies in all three subsectors.
“It’s the government’s plan to ensure that taxes, levies and fees that were a nuisance to farmers, pastoralists and fishermen are removed and leave only those having direct relationship with the development of the respective sectors,” Dr Tizeba affirmed.
Elaborating, he said that in the agricultural sector, the ministry will take away 10 levies charged on tobacco products, coffee (17), sugar (16), and cotton (2). The government will also scrap 20 fees charged by the Tanzania Cooperative Development Commission.
Some of the levies that will no longer exist in the next year include tax on licence to buy Dark Fire Cured tobacco (DFC) amounting to (400 us dollars), fee on licence to sell coffee outside the country (1000 US dollars), and Patchment dry cherry coffee buying licence (20 US dollars), fee on coffee processing licence (250 US dollars), and 450,000/- paid by each cotton processing industry as contribution to national torch race.
“Honourable Speaker, let me assure the Parliament that the government will continue analysing the other remaining levies and fees and see whether they have legitimacy to exist,in order to relieve farmers, pastoralists and fishermen from a burden of unnecessary levies,” he said.
Speaking over implementation of the proposed budget for 2017/18 financial year, Dr Tizeba noted that out of the 267.8bn/-, the ministry will spend 156.3bn/- on development projects and the remaining 111.5bn/- will go to recurrent expenditure.
Contributing to the proposed budget, the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Water and the Opposition advised the government to disburse funds to agriculture development projects timely, to enable the ministry to implement its budget. The Committee emphasized that agriculture remains the backbone of the country’s economy and major employer of Tanzanians.
The Committee Chairperson, Dr Mary Nagu (Hanang’-CCM), told the House that the implementation of the government’s vision of industrialisation should go along with development of the agricultural sector.
Presenting the Committee’s report on proposed budget for the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries for 2016/17 financial year, Dr Nagu noted that out of Sh101 billion allocated for development projects in the agriculture sector only 3.3 billion /- which is 3.3 per cent had been disbursed by early this month.
In 2015/16, she noted that only 16 per cent of the allocated development budget in the sector was disbursed or 5.1 billion/- out of allocated 32.7 billion/-. “Poor disbursement of funds has largely affected the execution of a number of development projects.
The worst affected projects are mapping of farming land and issuance of title deeds, distribution of agricultural inputs, construction of irrigation schemes, renovation and construction of warehouses, research and inspection projects,” she said.
Dr Nagu also noted that the situation was also bad in Livestock and Fisheries sectors which have so far received only eight per cent of its development budget, for the current financial year or 1.2 billion/- out of 15.8 billion/-.
The shadow minister for the ministry, Mr Cecilia Pareso (Special Seats- Chadema), advised the government that if they are keen on industrialisation, then they should first revolutionalise the agriculture sector.
“If we do not increase the agriculture budget and disburse allocated funds on time, then the industrialisation agenda will remain in media reports and never materialise,” she said.
Some MPs, including Special Seats legislator, Dr Christine Ishengoma (CCM) and Newala lawmaker George Mkuchika (CCM) described their approval on the government’s decision to remove those levies and fees, a move which will bring relief to farmers, pastoralists and fishermen.
They unanimously argued that the levies were too many, a situation which was crippling the latter.
But, Mr Mkuchika said after scrapping of those charges, the government should closely monitor if the authorities in the regions no longer charge the farmers and business people in the sectors.
SOURCE: Daily News 20th May 2017