A wide cross section of food items and non-food items such as bay rum and weight loss and diabetic shakes are being considered for Value Added Tax (VAT) removal by the special committee which was appointed to compile a list on items to be zero rated from November 15.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, at the pre-budget rally last Saturday announced that VAT will be removed from food in an effort to ease the burden of the consumer.
Persad-Bissesar said that even though the poverty rate had been reduced by four per cent, she found it was still too high.
A working committee, she disclosed, comprising the Ministries of Finance and Food Production, the Prices Council, the Supermarket Association of T&T, the T&T Manufacturers' Association, Food and Beverage Section, and other non-governmental organisations will review all the items that currently have VAT and then compile a list of items which will be zero rated.
Persad-Bissessar, following the budget presentation on Monday added that there were some 7,000 items that will be VAT exempted.
The Express understands that a preliminary list of items was already compiled by the committee
Some of these items proposed include baby food and baby juice, weight loss shakes, diabetic shakes, breakfast cereals such as cream of wheat and granola, condiments like mayonnaise, tomato paste, garlic sauce, tartar sauce among others, frozen foods which include burgers, patties, veggiemeats, smoked meats, hams, bologna, sausages.
Under meat items—smoked chicken, smoked turkey, salted salmon, butterball turkey, beef ham, chicken ham, cured pig snout, cured pork tails and salted boneless beef are also listed.
Non-food items were also recommended such as detergents, skin care and hygiene products.
Food Production Minister Devant Maharaj told the Express yesterday that the committee's work was in progress.
The Supermarket Association, he suggested, should ensure there is self regulation so the consumer can benefit from the VAT removal.
On another matter, Maharaj, in a release to the press informed that contrary to what some commentators have suggested, there is no shortfall in the budgetary allocation for agriculture and food production.
Maharaj noted the budgetary allocation for his Ministry was $1.4 billion compared to the $1.9 billion last year.
The Minister stated that the Ministry now has fewer obligations and departments this year since some of the divisions were relocated. These include Marine Affairs, State lands and the Estate Management Business Development (EMBD) division.
Maharaj stated that the Ministry will be moving to the expansion of farms on lands of the former Caroni (1975) Ltd and the distribution of 5,000 two-acre farms to former sugar workers.
The plan, he stated, is to put over 4,000 acres of lands into food production.
In addition, the Ministry will establish a Commodity Stabilisation Fund with the National Agriculture Marketing Development Corporation (NAMDEVCO) to strengthen the agro-processing sector.