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PSOJ calls agri minister exuberant, declares manufacturers will not pay sugar tax

Published:Monday | April 27, 2015 | 3:00 PMJovan Johnson, Gleaner Writer
Refined sugar is proposed to attract an import cess
Mahfood ...The tax would represent an attack on manufacturers

The Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) has branded Agriculture Minister, Derrick Kellier, as an exuberant Minister who is seeking to prop up the ailing sugar industry at the expense of more productive sectors.

The PSOJ’s statement is in support of the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association (JMA) which has declared its opposition to the impending tax on imported refined sugar, announced last week by Kellier.

Imported refined sugar is one of the main ingredients of many manufactured products, particularly in the beverage industry.

PSOJ president, William Mahfood, who is the managing director of beverage distributors, WISYNCO, says Kellier made the announcement without completing discussions with manufacturers.

He says manufacturers have already decided that they will not be paying any tax imposed on imported refined sugar.

PSOJ president, William Mahfood

According to Mahfood, the tax would represent an attack on manufacturers and would be counter to the Government’s pronouncements about enhancing growth in the economy.

The PSOJ head argues that the government appears to be willing to have the productive sectors suffer in order to support the sugar industry.

PSOJ president, William Mahfood

Last week, Lascelles Chin, the head of food manufacturer, LASCO, said he may have to shelve his company’s US $40 million expansion project in Jamaica and take the operations to Trinidad and Tobago if the government goes ahead with its plans.

The Agriculture Minister has argued that the cess is part of the government’s plans to restructure the regime governing the importation of refined sugar, which he says is being leaked to the local retail trade.

Kellier’s announcement coincides with concerns raised by sugar producers in the African Caribbean Pacific region about the approaching deadline for the reduction of European preferential treatment on sugar imports.