Members of treasury benches Wednesday urged the government to increase import duty on whey powder and milk powder over 100 percent to protect local farmers’ interests. PML-N member Rana Muhammad Hayat Khan speaking on his calling attention notice in the National Assembly said that majority of the milk and whey powder were being imported from India and this was hurting small farmers in Pakistan.
“The government should either slap a ban on import of the powder or increase import duty on it over 100 percent to protect interests of small farmers,” he said. He said over 50 million people in Pakistan earn their livelihood from livestock; thus the government needs to introduce farmers-friendly policies to alleviate poverty in the rural areas.
Three other movers of calling attention notice also demanded the government to introduce policies to help protect interests of the small farmers. Speaking on the issue, Federal Minister for National Food Security Sikandar Hayat Bosan supported the members’ argument of increasing import duty on the milk and whey powder to improve life of small farmers and livestock industry.
The cost of production has increased manifold and the small farmers cannot afford feeding their buffalos and cows without the government support, he said. “If the trend of growing cost of production continues, then the livestock sector and small farmers will not be able to survive,” the minister said.
Citing import duty on the milk powders in other countries, he said India slapped 68 percent import duty, Turkey 120 percent, Morocco 60 percent while in Pakistan it is only 20 percent. The minister said that he requested the government last year to increase the import duty on the whey and milk powder, but in vain.
Responding to all these points, Federal Minister for Commerce Khurram Dastgir said that Pakistan has an import duty of 43 percent on the whey powder and this can be increased following recommendations from the Ministry of National Food Security.
He said that four points are kept in mind while importing food items. 1. It should be fit for human consumption, 2. It should be free from Haram element, 3. The food items should have at least 50 percent shelf life and 4. The meat must be of Halal animals and slaughtered as per Islamic injunctions.
Dastgir said the issue of the import duty could be discussed with the Minister for Food Security for further action as the Commerce Ministry acts on the food items following recommendations from the Food Security Ministry. The movers of the calling attention notice; however, urged the Speaker National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq to constitute a house committee to discuss the issue.
Rejecting demand of the house committee, the speaker referred the matter to National Assembly Standing Committee on Commerce for further deliberations on the issue where movers of the calling attention notice will also be invited to present their proposals for increase in import duty of the whey powder.
Earlier, members of the joint opposition staged a walkout from the National Assembly on the third consecutive day in a protest against absence of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the House. Following the walkout, proceeding of the House remained suspended for some 50 minutes due to lack of quorum as it was pointed out by a member of the opposition.
Source: Business Recorder