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JCC says no to granulated sugar tax

Monday, September 10, 2018

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The Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) says it is not in support of any proposal to reimpose duties on granulated sugar imports as a means of cracking down on the illegal diversion of refined sugar into the distributive and retail sectors.

In a statement last Thursday, chief executive officer of the JCC Trevor Fearon said any attempt to impose additional burdens on the manufacturing industry through the reimposition of duties or the imposition of cesses would drive up the cost of doing business.

Fearon said the JCC noted comments made by Minister Audley Shaw at a meeting with stakeholders in the domestic sugar production industry last Tuesday, in which he indicated that the ministry had more than anecdotal evidence that sugar imports meant for the manufacturing sector had found their way into the distributive and retail sectors.

According to a release from the Jamaica Information Service, Shaw told the luncheon meeting of the All-Island Jamaica Cane Farmers' Association, and the Sugar Industry Authority that: “There is no other way — that is the way to begin to rescue this industry”.

The minister said manufacturers are unable to ensure that the system of importing duty-free sugar into the country is not abused, and that imported white sugar is increasingly finding its way into the local retail market directly, instead of through the manufacturing process. He pointed to brokers, noting that they work on behalf of manufacturers who import the sugar duty-free, and said that part of the product goes to the manufacturers and the remainder to the local market.

In response, Shaw has proposed to reimpose the duties on the imports of sugar meant for the manufacturing sector. The proposal is to have legitimate manufacturers reclaim the duties within 30 days.

The JCC says it is asking the minister to share with the police all related evidence about those involved in the illegal activity.

“We call upon the minister to share with the appropriate authorities, specifically law enforcement, all the evidence that he has gleaned, including the identities of the entities and individuals involved. The JCC is fully in support of having the law take its course without fear or favour, and any business operators or public sector employees in the border agencies that are involved in the commission or facilitation of such illicit trade should, if evidence is available, be subjected to the full weight of the law,” Fearon stated.

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