Duty concession plea

Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum with members of the private sector during the 2018-2019 budget consultations in Suva last week. Picture: JOVESA NAISUA

Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum with members of the private sector during the 2018-2019 budget consultations in Suva last week. Picture: JOVESA NAISUA

WHAT I’m asking is if we can be given duty concessions on our packaging materials and machines.

Ben’s Trading Ltd director Maria Moi made the request to the Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum during the 2018-2019 budget consultations for the private sector in Suva last week.

“It’s because we’ve just constructed another packing warehouse in Rakiraki to benefit sugarcane farmers who have diversified into cassava farming,” Mrs Moi said.

She said about 300 to 500 farmers were farming cassava at Nalawa and Burenitu villages and she was asking that as outlets for this produce, they could be given subsidy on the packaging materials cost.

Mrs Moi said they had been asking the Ministry of Agriculture for subsidy but were told they couldn’t because Fiji was a developed country.

“Only developing countries like Tonga and Samoa can get it,” she said.

The A-G asked her who had told her this and she replied, the Ministry of Agriculture.

“We have just imported some materials from China and will be asking for duty concessions on this. These are plastics and bags and we have our Ben’s Trading logo and our importers’ names printed on them and we can’t sell them locally. We need them for our exports to Australia, NZ and the US,” Mrs Moi said.

She said competition was tough against Tonga, Samoa and other Pacific Island countries so the only way was to minimise their production costs.

“I have made submissions to FRCS comparing the prices paid locally and the import prices; it’s a lot. So I’m asking if we be given some duty concessions on this,” she said.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum thanked her and asked her to put in her submission.

“And I can’t answer you now or I will pre-empt the budget but you’ll hear about it in the budget announcement. Of course the policy also is to look at what’s available locally because we have to ensure that local factories and producers remain open to provide Fijians with jobs,” the A-G said.

He said sometimes they had to balance things.

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