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22.03.2005 General News

Rice, Poultry Farmers Cry Foul

By Lens

Reduction in Import Taxes Will Kill Our Businesses The decision by the Kufuor administration to lower import taxes on imported poultry and rice is being seen by local rice and poultry farmers as the clearest indication that the Kufuor administration is confused and has lost focus of what it intends to achieve.

A number of poultry farmers and rice farmers that The Lens spoke to during the weekend invariably expressed shock and disappointment at the lowering of import taxes on rice and poultry.

Almost to a man, they could not understand why a government that claims to be encouraging local rice and poultry production would now be lowering import taxes on these products, especially as it is no secret that lowering the import taxes is tantamount to virtually opening our country up for dumping of heavily subsidised poultry and rice from Europe and elsewhere.

The farmers contend that lowering of the import taxes on these products means that local producers will be priced out of the market since in the final analysis imported rice and poultry would end being a lot more cheaper that those produced locally.

“Our operation cost, high as it was previously, has been compounded by the recent petroleum price increases, which, as we all know, affects everything else in our economy. Which means that our produces are going to be a lot more expensive than it used to be. Bad as that was, our government now goes to lower taxes on importation of these products so that importers can now bring in a lot of these products from places where farmers are subsidised. If this is not a measure to kill local rice and poultry production then I don't know what it is,” one very irate farmer told The Lens.

“You don't build your local industries by opening the floodgates for cheap imported goods to come and compete with locally produced goods that, through no fault of the producers, are bound to be more expensive. For one, our products are not subsidised, while everyone knows that European farmers are subsidised. Two, it is through no fault of ours that our production costs are high; just look at electricity and water tariffs, as well as the price of petrol and diesel. Not to talk of unavailability of long-term investment funds as well as crippling interest rates. So, in plain terms, our government is telling us to fold up,” another farmer quipped.

Reacting to the reduction in the import taxes, the President of the poultry farmers association, Mr. Quartey said on Joy FM's 6pm news bulletin last Friday that the reduction reflects weakness in the leadership of the country. “This is a weak leadership, a weak parliament, and a weak President…” said an apparently disgusted Mr. Quartey.

Meanwhile as the Kufuor-led NPP government continues to refuse to accede to the just demands of Ghanaians to reduce the prices of petroleum products by reducing the nearly 50% taxes and margins in the price build up of these products, the government's decision to lower import taxes on imported rice and poultry, which has the potential of killing the business of local producers, appears to fly in the face of government's argument it needs all the taxes it can marshal for the development of the country.

At the time of going to press, indications are that local rice and poultry farmers would be demanding a meeting with the Trade Minister as well as the Minister for Private Sector Development in the coming days to demand a review of import taxes on imported rice and poultry

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