FLASHBACK: Trade Minister Vasant Bharath lifts up a rolling sheet of paper, which he says is the list of 7,000 items from which VAT is to be removed, during the budget debate in the Senate on October 16, at the International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain. See Page 5. –Photo: CURTIS CHASE

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Ministry releases VAT-free list

By Carla Bridglal carla.bridglal@trinidadexpress.com

Sweetened biscuits, cream, yogurt, cake mixes, cereal and Maraschino cherries are just some of the items on the Government's approved value added tax (VAT)-free list.

On Friday the Legal Order to effect the change was approved by Finance Minister Larry Howai and is expected to take effect from Thursday.

In September, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced at a pre-budget rally that from November 15, the 15 per cent VAT on food items (excluding alcohol and "luxury goods") would be removed in an effort to lower food prices and curb food-price inflation.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Investment released the list yesterday, representing the broad categories and groupings of the food items to be zero -rated for VAT (VAT exempt). It encompasses in excess of 4,000 supermarket items.

"Determination of the final list of items was a very complex process, which involved careful, detailed and collaborative review of the food items in common use by the majority of our local households, utilising a comprehensive list provided to the Ministry by industry stakeholders," the Trade Minstry said in its release.

But not everyone is convinced the removal of VAT will have the desired effect.

Last Monday during the release of the Monetary Policy Report for October, Central Bank Governor Jwala Rambarran said the removal will have a "one-off impact".

"Once VAT comes off food prices, what is going to happen at the end of the day is those prices will be subject to market conditions, so you will have demand and supply reasserting itself and you will find a new level of prices. So the impact is one-off and not something that will continue," said Rambarran.

Other concerned parties include local manufacturers who fear their products will have to compete even harder with imported goods, since they would still have to pay VAT on raw materials.

Minister of Trade Vasant Bharath spoke to the Sunday Express yesterday via telephone. He said raw material products had not been taken into account, but the finished product would still be VAT free.

"More than 70 per cent of goods on grocery shelves are imported and these will be zero-rated so there should be significant relief," he said.

The Minister said the items on the list were those deemed by the Ministry as goods that would ordinarily be found in a typical household basket.

Bharath reiterated that the VAT-free measure was not necessarily meant to remain in perpetuity but the intention was to build domestic food security, and then when the local food production sector had reached that comfortable mass then the system would be re-evaluated.

He also said the Government would be launching a very aggressive campaign to monitor food prices so retailers and wholesalers did not unjustifiably raise prices. He added he would be setting up a team in the next week comprising his Ministry, the Finance Ministry, the Supermarkets' Association, the Food and Beverage Division and various consumer-oriented non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to keep an eagle eye on food prices to keep consumers aware of what they should pay.

"The market will determine action—people are the ones who can choose where and what to buy. But we will provide the information to the market to help influence informed decisions," he said.

The following is the list of food items provided by the Ministry:

• Cream and creamers

• Biscuits, sweetened

• Meat and Edible Meat offal, salted, in brine, dried or smoked; edible flours and meals of meat or meat offal.:

• Meat of swine: Hams, shoulders and cuts thereof with bone in;

• Meat of swine: Bellies (streaky) and cuts thereof; Bacon;

• Meat of swine: Other: Salted or in brine

• Meat of bovine animals: Salted or in brine

• Meat of bovine animals: Dried

• Yogurt

• Dairy Spreads

• Butter fat and butter oil

• Tea, whether or not flavoured, including herbal teas

• Cereal grains otherwise worked (for example: hulled, rolled, flaked, pearled, sliced or kibbled), except rice; germ of cereals, whole, rolled, flaked or ground

• Imitation lard and lard substitutes (shortening)

• Prepared and preserved meat, meat offal or blood of:

• Turkey

• Fowls

• Hams and cuts of swine

• Shoulders and cuts of swine

• Other mixtures

• Bovine animals

• Other prepared or preserved meat, meat offal or blood including preparations of blood of any animal;

• Luncheon meat

Prepared or preserved:

• Salmon

• Crab

• Shrimps and prawns

• Cake mix in retail packages not exceeding 2kg

• Oatmeal, meal or cereal which must be boiled in water or milk to make a porridge

• Waffles and wafers excluding communion wafers, empty cachets of a kind suitable for pharmaceutical use, sealing wafers, rice paper and similar products

• Vegetables, fruit, nuts and other edible parts of plants, prepared or preserved by vinegar or acetic acid other than –

• cucumber and gherkins; and

• those in packages of not less than 50 kg

• Tomatoes, whole or in pieces, prepared or preserved otherwise than by vinegar or acetic acid except those in packages of not less than 50 kg

• Other tomatoes other than tomato paste and except those in packages of not less than 50 kg

• Mushrooms, prepared or preserved otherwise than by vinegar or acetic acid other than mushrooms of the genus Agaricus

• Other vegetables prepared or preserved otherwise than by vinegar or acetic acid, frozen, other than products preserved by sugar (drained, glacé or crystallised)

• Potatoes other than those in packages of not less than 50 kg;

• Homogenised vegetables: Preparations for infant use, put up for retail sale;

• Peas (Pisum Sativum) other than those in packages of not less than 50 kg;

• Beans (Vigna spp., Phaseolus spp.): Beans, shelled other than those in packages of not less than 50 kg;

• Other Beans (Vigna spp., Phaseolus spp.) other than those in packages of not less than 50 kg;

• Olives other than those in packages of not less than 50 kg;

• Sweet corn (Zea mays var. saccharata) other than those in packages of not less than 50 kg;

• Bamboo shoots other than those in packages of not less than 50 kg

• Maraschino and glacé cherries

• Jams, fruit jellies, marmalade, fruit or nut purée and fruit or nut pastes, obtained by cooking, whether or not containing added sugar or other sweetening matter:

• Homogenised preparations: Preparations for infant use, put up for retail sale;

• Citrus fruit, fruit purée and fruit paste in retail packages;

• Other fruit purée and fruit paste, not in retail packages, other than guava cheese, nutmeg jams and jellies;

• Pineapple-based;

• Guava jams and jellies;

• Other fruit puree and fruit paste

• Prepared foods obtained by the swelling or roasting of cereals or cereal products (for example: corn flakes); cereals other than maize (corn) in grain form or in the form of flakes of other worked grains (except flour, groats and meal), pre-cooked or otherwise prepared, not elsewhere specified or included, except bulgur wheat

• Fruit, nuts and other edible parts of plants, otherwise prepared or preserved, whether or not containing added sugar or other sweetening matter or spirit, not elsewhere specified or included:

• Nuts, ground-nuts and other seeds, whether or not mixed together: Ground-nuts;

• Pineapples;

• Oranges;

• Grapefruits;

• Pears;

• Apricots;

• Cherries;

• Peaches, including nectarines;

• Strawberries;

• Other excluding mixtures of peanut butter and other mixtures;

• Banana and plantain chips;

• Other mixtures

• Fruit juices (including grape must) and vegetable juices, unfermented and not containing added spirit, whether or not containing added sugar or other sweetening matter:

• Other juice of any single citrus fruit (excluding orange, grapefruit, lime): of a Brix value not exceeding 20: Other in packages put up for retail sale;

• Pineapple juice: of a Brix value not exceeding 20;

• Tomato juice

• Grape juice (including grape must):

• of a Brix value not exceeding 30: For infant use in packages put up for retail sale

• of a Brix value not exceeding 30

• Other grape juice

• Apple juice: of a Brix value not exceeding 20: For infant use in packages put up for retail sale;

• of a Brix value not exceeding 20: Other, in packages put up for retail sale;

• Other apple juice

Juice of any other single fruit or vegetable:

• Passion fruit juice: Other, in packages put up for retail sale;

• Other passion fruit juice;

• Preparation of the juice of any other single fruit or vegetable for infant use put up for retail sale;

• Other juice of any single fruit or vegetable

• Mixtures of juices:

• Preparations of other mixtures of juices for infant use, put up for retail sale;

• Other mixtures of juices

• Sauces and preparations therefor; mixed condiments and mixed seasonings; mustard flour and meal and prepared mustard:

• Other tomato sauces;

• Pepper sauce;

• Mayonnaise;

• Worcestershire sauce;

• Anchar, kuchela and similar preparations;

• All other similar sauces and preparations

• Soups and broths and preparations therefor; homogenized composite food preparations:

• In liquid form;

• In solid or powder form;

• Homogenised composite food preparations: Preparations for infant use, put up for retail sale

• Flavouring powders for making beverages

• Coconut milk in retail packages

• Artificial sweeteners

• Other waters, containing added sugar or other sweetening matter or flavoured, and other non-alcoholic beverages, not including fruit juices (including grape must) and vegetable juices, unfermented and not containing added spirit, whether or not containing added sugar or other sweetening matter

• Other waters including mineral waters containing added sugar or other sweetening matter or flavoured and other non-alcoholic beverages

• Other beverages containing cocoa

• Malt beverages; and

• All other beverages

• Vegetables (cooked by steaming or boiling in water).

• Mixtures of vegetables; Other

• Dried vegetables, whole, cut, sliced, broken or in powder but not further prepared:

• Onions;

• Other vegetables; mixtures of vegetables

• Dried leguminous vegetables, shelled, whether or not skinned or split:

• Peas (Pisum Sativum): Pigeon peas;

• Peas (Pisum Sativum): Split peas

• Peas (Pisum Sativum): Blackeye peas;

• Peas (Pisum Sativum): Other peas;

• Peas (Pisum Sativum): Chickpeas (Garbanzos);

• Beans (Vigna spp.; Phaseolus spp): Beans of the species Vigna mungo (L.) Hepper or Vigna radiata (L.) Wilczek;

• Beans (Vigna spp.; Phaseolus spp): Small red (adzuki) beans (Phaseolus or vigna angularis);

• Kidney beans, including white pea beans (Phaseolus vulgaris): Red kidney beans;

• Beans (Vigna spp.; Phaseolus spp): Kidney beans, including white pea beans (Phaseolus vulgaris): Other;

• Beans (Vigna spp.; Phaseolus spp): Other;

• Beans (Vigna spp.; Phaseolus spp): Lentils;

• Beans (Vigna spp.; Phaseolus spp): Broad beans (Vicia faba var. major) and horse beans (Vicia faba bar. Equina, Vicia faba var. minor); and

• Other dried leguminous vegetables, shelled, whether or not skinned or split

• Dates

• Prunes

• Seeds of cumin

• Sausages and similar products, of meat, meat offal or blood; food preparations based on these products:

• Other chicken sausages;

• Other sausages, canned;

• Other sausages

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