Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, May 5:
The Odisha government would demand uniform value added tax (VAT) on pulses and wheat products for all states at the two-day meeting of the empowered committee of state finance ministers beginning tomorrow.
State Finance Minister Pradip Kumar Amat has written to the chairman of the empowered committee to discuss this issue during the meeting, sources said.
Notably, Odisha was levying five percent VAT on these commodities as per the recommendations of the empowered committee. Demanding waiver of VAT and introduction of one percent entry tax on these items instead, the traders under Federation of All Odisha Traders’ Association (FAOTA) had resorted to a week-long strike last month and stopped import of these products impacting the supply of these essential commodities in the state.
However, the finance department had rejected the demands of the traders’ association adding that the state government cannot decide on it unilaterally.
As per data available, the state consumes around 755,920 tonne of dal annually amounting to Rs 4,500 crore. But, the traders’ body claims that the state government received around Rs 40 crore during 2013-4 as against an estimated Rs 225 crore taking into account the five per cent VAT on these items.
The state government is contemplating reduction of VAT on these products for which a committee comprising representatives from the traders’ body and state government has been formed. The committee will submit its report within three months.
Pulse prices skyrocket
Meanwhile, the prices of pulses in the state have gone through the roof in the last few weeks.
Among the pulses, black gram, which was selling for Rs 90- Rs 95 a kg just two days ago, has now tocuhed Rs 112 per kilo in the retail market. Similarly, the price of harada (arhar) dal has breached the Rs 100 mark and is being sold at Rs 110 a kilo in the retail shops. On the other hand, the price of moong dal has remained unchanged despite the price rise. Moong dal is being sold at Rs 100-Rs 102 a kg in the retail market.
Traders, however, attribute this steep price rise to international market scenario. While domestic production has dipped, the government is importing pulses from other countries leading to price rise. Production in countries like Australia and Myanmar has been affected due to heavy rainfall, they point out.
The price of black gram is fluctuating due to the domestic conditions. Unseasonal rains have damaged the crops and have impacted the supply leading to price rise, the traders opined.
On the contrary, it is alleged that the millers are raising the prices of the black gram as they are procuring it at Rs 7000 per quintal from middlemen who are purchasing from the farmers at Rs 6000-Rs 6500 per quintal. As there is no check on price of pulses, the millers are making abnormal profits.
“The traders are increasing the prices of all the pulses citing price rise of arhar dal due to international market condition. They are taking undue advantage of it,” a consumer said.