Predicament on pesticides front
05 February, 2008
Thankfully, the withdrawal by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) of the 2 percent extra sales tax on the commercial importers of pesticides it had levied on June 27, 2007 along with all other commercial importers, will mark the end of an anomaly that had remained a cause of concern this long.
Needless to point out, had it been earlier the better, at least in terms of relief from the extra financial pressure it had exerted along the line down to the end users and the farmers, as also the general public. This of course has reference to the belief that the application of pesticides helps avert the threat of lower crop yield from pest attacks, leading to shortages and the resulting increase in the prices of end products.
Welcome, as such, should be Board's gesture of so amending SRO 645(I)/2007 as removing double taxation on a single category of commercial importers. According to FBR, the commercial importers of pesticides were paying extra 2 percent sales tax at the import stage under it.
They also had to pay a further 2.25 percent sales tax under SRO 645(I)/2006 of June 21, 2006, which required payment of this additional tax by all importers, including manufacturers and commercial importers of pesticides and their active ingredients, with exemption of the same levy of sales tax on the further supplies.
As such in so far as tax related worries from pesticides are concerned the FBR will appear to have put them at rest, at least, for some time, as the Board is only concerned with matters related to duties and taxes as linked to the nation's budgetary scheme of things.
This is why it has to keep a constant watch on the state of revenue, hence making amendments in the policies from time to time, to ensure against dents in the ongoing process of revenue collection through SROs that too often lead to controversies too.
Again, since pesticides play no small a role in the development of agriculture, which though predominating the country's economy has remained badly neglected rather too long, one is apt to resent any evidence of weakening of that role.
The same can be said about all the other policy measures aimed at boosting agriculture to whatever extent possible under the circumstances. However, as ill luck would have it the availability, marketing and use of pesticides remain plagued by too many inconsistencies. Reference, in this regard, may be made to proliferation of its spurious varieties in the market, on the hand, and failure of the authorities to stem the tide, on the other.
Pakistan is not the only victim of a lack of proper knowledge of what pesticides and other aids to farming mean and ask for. Significantly, Pakistan exhorted the farmers never to be influenced by advertisements of pesticides and chemical fertilisers. Of course, needs to be played a vital role in creation of awareness among Pakistani farmers about modern environment-friendly techniques, such as increasing water efficiency by farmers, reduction in use of pesticides in cotton fields and of chemical fertilisers by sugarcane and cotton farmers.
WWF has established schools in sugarcane and cotton growing areas in Faisalabad and Bahawalpur to train farmers, who will be called master trainers and then to train other farmers as to how implement better management practices in their areas. The predicament on the pesticides front will be seen as beckoning the farming community and the government alike to emulate the example set by other nations.