The new Minister for food has nixed the notion that the price of local produce should rise because of the Government’s new tax measures that could have an impact on farms and food production.
Concerned that their water bills could skyrocket, some farmers have already put consumers on notice of a possible price increase in some products.
But Minister of Agriculture Indar Weir said it would be unfair of food producers to raise prices without giving the Government time to assess the measures’ impact.
Farmers, manufacturers and hoteliers have complained that the new GSC tax would result in increased operational expenses, with some indicating that their water bills could reach as much as $60,000 a month.
Effective August 1, businesses are required to pay a new Garbage and Sewage Contribution levy equivalent to 50 per cent of their water bill, while households would pay $1.50 per day.
This charge will be paid through the Barbados Water Authority.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley has already indicated that she was willing to review the charge for the hotel sector and the “industrial sector”.
But in addressing a Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association function days after the measure was announced, Mottley said she would await the first three months of bills from those sectors, so that “those who use a large amount of water – to be able to set, if necessary, an appropriate cap as we have done with land tax in this country”.
Asked if he would be putting forward a case for the agriculture sector in an effort to get a review, farm minister Weir reiterated that Government would first have to see the results before making a decision.
“The Prime Minister was very clear, let us see the results first and then we will go forward with the decision. We don’t chop and change and jump all over the place because somebody say so. This is not going to be the approach of this administration,” Weir said, following a tour of the Nature Fun Ranch in St Andrew on Wednesday.
Weir took issue with farmers already putting consumers on notice about pending price increases due to the new tax despite them having access to concessions.
Weir said the farmers were being unfair since they were yet to know the impact the GSC could have before a decision could be taken after the review.
“This minister will not be entertaining discussions on the basis that something has driven up a price when I don’t get the quantitative analysis to show how it has been impacted.
“You can’t tell me that the Ministry of Agriculture continues to give incentives and rebates to farmers, the prices continue to go up so the consumers [don’t] benefit, and at the moment the Government introduces a tax there is a hue and cry when we don’t get a full quantitative analysis to see the impact of the inputs that are coming from the ministry. It is not the kind of conversation I want to entertain. Not at all,” he declared. (MM)