Dairy farmers appeal for exemption from new municipal tax
The Barbados Dairy and Beef Producers Association (BD&BPA) has rubbished the Government’s new municipal solid waste tax, calling it yet another unwanted burden which it wants farmers to be exempted from paying.
In fact, the Association says instead of imposing an additional bill on farmers, the Government needs to deliver outstanding Value Added Tax (VAT) refunds owed for four years now.
The Association is preparing to put forward its case on Thursday when it is scheduled to meet with Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick.
“We were under the impression that the municipal tax was not supposed to apply to agricultural land but several of my farmers called me on Friday saying they received these bills,” said President of the Association Brian Allan.
He pointed out that “a farm is a lot of open area and not a lot of housing”. Therefore, “for us to have to pay the same sort of tax as a development is very unfair,” he said, adding that “already farmers are buried under taxes; land taxes and everything else”.
“It is going to be extremely hard for us to manage that,” he stressed.
The tax, which was first announced in the 2012 budget, has been introduced to help cover rising sanitation costs.
It has been calculated at a rate of 0.3 per cent of the site value of all properties.
Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agriculture Society (BAS), James Paul, concedes the tax is a concern because farmers will have to pay out money.
He told Barbados TODAY the BAS would be seeking to hold talks with the Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler on the matter as he suggested that the tax “was one that farmers cannot bear”.
“I would think at this point of time that the Ministry of Finance would be prepared to look favourably at this type of operation,” Paul said.
Still, the BD & BPA, which represents 18 dairy farmers, contends that if the Government is asking for more taxes then it should be fair and pay back its debts to farmers.
“Legally, we are entitled to VAT, we haven’t received VAT since June 2011, none of the farmers. In fact, nobody else is getting back VAT either. How can we operate? In my case it is over 60 thousand dollars for a small farm and other farmers are owed more than me. That would clear off our overdrafts to pay off our bills, because we are zero rated we do not charge VAT on our milk so we cannot write off any of our purchases towards anything we sell, so every month, VAT costs us money.
“It really is starting to have an effect on our farmers,” Allan stressed. We’re in a position now where we are paying taxes, National Insurance, corporation tax, but yet we can’t the money that is owed to us by the Government,” he lamented.
Despite these challenges, Allan said the diary producers were being asked to increase their output.
“There is no excess of milk at the moment all the milk is being used. Pine Hill Diary has embarked on an advertising campaign that is working very well . . . . So it has taken a few years, the PHD is back on track and now they want more milk from the farmers so we have to step up production after they told us to cut down.”
He however said the farmers were encouraged following recent talks with executives of Sandals.
The hotel chain has assured the BD&BPA of its preparedness to purchase milk from them when its luxury property begins operation in January next year.