Thursday, June 28, 2012

Burma suspends taxes on some agricultural items

Thursday, 28 June 2012 15:59 Mizzima News

Burma’s commercial tax on import of some agriculture-related items and domestic sales has been suspended for a period of nine months, state-run media said on Thursday.

A farmer and his ox plough a field in the Bagan temple ruins in central Burma. Photo: Mizzima

Agricultural items exempted include fertilizer, pesticide, farm equipment and machinery, said the New Light of Myanmar.

The exemptions begin July 1 and extend to March 31, 2013.

The article said the move is in line with focusing on stimulating the agro-industry as a fundamental building block in the country’s development.

Burma has also extended a commercial tax exemption period for six months on some export items including rice, beans and pulses, corn, sesame, rubber, freshwater and saltwater products and certain animal products from Feb. 15 to July 14 this year. It is not known if the exemption will be extended again.

The extension was introduced when the U.S. dollar depreciated at the end of last year and through the start of this year, causing exporters losses.

The problems of agricultural sector reforms are a central topic of Thein Sein’s new government and of comments by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who made it an issue in her by-election campaign in February.

She said that if a genuine democratic system can be put in place, then many organizations and foreign countries are ready to provide assistance to help modernize the agricultural sector and make it internationally competitive. At one time, Burma was the No. 1 exporter or rice.

At a joint session of Parliament on February 10, Minister for Agriculture and Irrigation Myint Hlaing said that farmers would be allowed to grow the crops they want, and the government would help them to get more income by providing assistance in entering the international market for their farm products.

He also admitted in Parliament that some village administrators have forced farmers to grow summer paddy that is incompatible with the local climate and some farmers have been hurt by such decisions.

Lower House Speaker Shwe Mahn said, “Nowadays farmers, livestock producers and producers of primary products are all facing incurring losses due to falling prices for their crops and products along with fishery producers.”

The minister and Shwe Mann are both members of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, the government-backed party that controls the Parliament.

In May 2011, Mizzima reported that a leading Burmese economist and presidential adviser, Dr. Myint, in a paper on how to reduce poverty, told high government officials that agricultural reforms play a fundamental role in rural development and in initiating economic progress in many Asian economies, such as in Taiwan and South Korea.

“In Myanmar farmers do not have land ownership rights, but only land user’s rights. Thus, in considering land reform in Myanmar under present circumstances, the aim is to come up with measures to protect the farmers from losing their land use rights,” he said.

Owning their land, he said, could allow farmers to use the land as collateral for loans.

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