JMA pushes for alternatives to refined sugar cess
In anticipation of discussions with Agriculture Minister Derrick Kellier, President of the Jamaica Manu-facturers' Association (JMA) Brian Pengelley says he is
hoping that a comprehensive strategy will be put in place to provide other alternatives to bolster the sugar industry, instead of imposing taxes on the manufacturing sector.
Addressing a press conference at the JMA's offices in downtown Kingston yesterday, Pengelley said though he was yet to receive an invitation from the ministry, he was open to having frank discussions. He, however, stressed that he would be firm in his stance against the imposition of a cess on imported refined sugar
The JMA press conference followed the announcement by Kellier that the Government was considering the imposition of a US$35 per tonne cess on refined sugar imports.
The plan has however been met with staunch disapproval from some members of the private sector, including chairman of the LASCO group of companies, Lascelles Chin, who has threatened to move his operations to Trinidad, if the tariff is implemented.
Kellier has since stated that he is willing to have further dialogue.
"We are tired of hearing that there is leakage of billions of dollars in revenue as refined sugar is being diverted into the retail trade by manufacturers. The JMA has been asking for this data and proof for the past 12 years, and to date, this claim has not been substantiated by any of the agencies responsible for monitoring and enforcement," Pengelley declared.
"We must find a way to bolster the sugar industry without putting our manufacturers or other sectors at a disadvantage. We should not tear down one sector to build another. We don't intend to be arrogant; we will be happy to meet with him at his convenience but so far, no one has reached out to us."
He added: "As noted in our position paper, brown sugar is not an appropriate substitute for refined sugar to be used in the production of most food and beverages. As such, if a cess is placed on imported refined sugar and the price increases, the demand for Jamaican brown sugar is not likely to rise. Therefore, the imposition of a cess will not level the playing field as both are distinct products."
Mark Hart, executive chairman of Caribbean Producers Jamaica, in giving his support to Pengelley, argued that the Government needs to do more to strengthen Jamaica's investment climate.
"It's all about cost. We are Jamaicans and we are trying to make it work, but at some point, the numbers take over and the Government needs to be aware of that," Hart said.
"The investment climate has been a circus, you just don't know what will happen. We need stability," he charged.