Roughly 20 basic food items will soon be added to the list of basic food items which recently saw a reduction in prices due to the removal of VAT just one month ago, to further assist in reducing food prices.
Senior Economist at the Ministry of Trade and Industry Neville Alexander announced the news on Friday at the Joint Select Committee’s meeting on Finance and Legal Affairs.
“One of the things that we are looking at is that we have identified a list of about 20 food items for which we are seeking to reduce the common external tariff duties to help have a reduction in food prices. That’s an initiative we are pursuing right now,” Alexander said.
The removal of VAT on 65 imported food items at supermarkets was intended to bring relief to families’ pockets across the country, but so far, many shoppers say they have seen no price difference.
The Common External Tariff is the prime instrument of consensus among CARICOM member countries which sees goods imported from CARICOM countries and are certified to be of CARICOM origin generally free from import duties. These CARICOM origin goods enjoy the duty-free status, that is, they are not subject to Customs import duty.
Without giving details as to when this CET removal will be done and which food items exactly will be affected, Alexander said the ministry is also looking to increase local production of a list of items via the ministry’s Import Substitution Programme.
He explained, “ We have started work on a list of products that we would like to increase local production of via our Import Substitution Programme. These products are those that we think we have capability locally to produce to such an extent that we can eventually be able to supply the region, 74% of the region’s needs.”
He added that protection will also be provided via the CET rate arrangement for those products. This way those products will see protection from imports and capacity will be built in order to reduce international food prices and commodity prices.