GCT removal from raw food imports could devastate local farmers warns Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

The decision of the Government to remove the General Consumption Tax (GCT) on imported raw foods could have devastating consequences for Jamaican farmers, Julian Robinson, the Opposition Spokesman on Finance, Planning and the Public Service has warned.

Robinson gave the warning Thursday as he made his contribution to the 2024/25 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives.

“We are concerned about the impact that the removal of GCT on imported raw foods will have on our local farmers. We exist in a world where the playing field is not level and where richer developed countries provide subsidies to their farmers. Great vigilance is required to ensure that cheap subsidised produce does not get dumped into the Jamaican market,” said Robinson.

He urged the government to carefully examine the potential negative fallout from this measure and determine what assistance is needed to ensure farmers can remain competitive.

“I think of the farmers in St Elizabeth, the bread basket of the country, who provide most of the vegetables we consume. What impact will this have on their ability to survive and supply their customers,” Robinson said.

In his opening Budget Debate presentation on Tuesday, Finance and Public Service Minister Dr Nigel Clarke announced that the GCT on all raw foodstuff, imported or domestic, will be removed.

Clarke explained that the measure, which will take effect in the first quarter of the new financial year, is in keeping with Jamaica’s trade obligations.

“The Government also sought to deal with the issue of the rate of the GCT charged on imported raw foodstuff and the fact that no GCT is charged on the domestically produced raw foodstuff.

“The intention of this policy, at the time, was to bolster domestic production and act as a safeguard for domestic industries and markets,” Clarke said.

“Unfortunately, this policy could be interpreted as government-sponsored protectionism and distorts the conditions of competition between imported markets,” Clarke added.

The measure will be revenue negative and will result in government foregoing $2.4 billion in revenue.