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NA body recommends abolition of GST on agri machinery, equipment

ISLAMABAD: To increase self-sufficiency in agriculture crops, a parliamentary body at National Assembly (NA) on Wednesday recommended the government to eradicate general sales tax (GST) over agriculture machineries and input in the upcoming budget as well as enhance the budgetary allocation for Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MNFS&R).
These recommendations were made in National Assembly Standing Committee on MNFS&R. The committee was of the view agriculture was backbone of the economy, therefore, the incumbent government needed to take special measures in the budget 2014-15 to provide relief to the farmers as well as to equip them with modern technology.  
Secretary MNFS&R Seerat Asghar informed the Committee the government has approved Rs 1.070 billion indicative budget for MNFS&R for the fiscal year 2014-15 against the demand of Rs 3 billion. Last year the government allocated Rs 7.5 million for the Ministry, he maintained.
The Ministry proposed to abolish custom duty over agriculture machinery and sale tax on tractor to equip agriculture sector with modern technologies. The MNFS&R also proposed to abolish sale tax and duty over agriculture input, he added. 
Rao Muhammad Ajmal Khan submitted the demand of farmers associations to the Committee, who demanded of the government to announce maintaining of last year’s per unit electricity rates on agriculture connections, which were agreed last year. 
They demanded to abolish sales tax on fertilizer and tractors used by the agriculture sector. The association further proposed to fix agriculture income tax on the basis of per unit basis to ensure that rain-fed areas rates be half of the irrigated areas.
The government should restore mark-up on the agriculture loan at eight percent in coming budget. The committee members unanimously approved the demands of farmers associations.
MNA Muhammad Safdar urged the Ministry to establish storage facilities in the areas, producing various kinds of fruit and vegetable. He asked the Ministry to set up seed certification laboratories in Gilgit Baltistan and Kashmir.  
Dr Shakeel Ahmad of NFS&R informed the Committee the mandate and function of Federal Seed Certification Registration Department included controlling the quality of seed, registration of growers and certification of seed. He said 28 seed certification laboratories were functioning in the country and the main lab was in Islamabad.
This year the department has registered 585 challan against the illegal and unauthorised seed sellers in the different parts of the country and also confiscated 30,000 kilogrammes illegal seed. 
Dr Shakeel said federal cabinet has approved the draft of seed amendment bill 2014 and it would be tabled before the parliament. The bill would ensure registration of genetically modified plant varieties (GMOs) and would allow private sector to set up their own accredited seed testing laboratories, he said.
Fisheries Development Board Chief Executive Officer Faisal Iftikhar informed the Committee about the Board, its potential and importance. He said the Board was established in 2007. It introduced agriculture and shrimp farming, Tilapia farming and cage fish farming. Export potential of Pakistan is expected to be more than $2 billion if government properly support this sector, he added.
Till 2012 no commercial fish feed was available in Pakistan but the start of Tilapia farming two commercial fish feed mills have been established. Now commercial feed is available for Tilapia, carps and trout and no commercial feed is available for shrimp in the country, he said.

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