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Odisha traders threaten to stop import of pulses, wheat products from Dec 9

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau

Bhubaneswar, Nov 24:

The All Odisha Traders’ Association has threatened to stop import of pulses, wheat and wheat products from other states from December 9 protesting against 5% value added tax (VAT) imposed on these items by the state government.

The traders’ body, at a press briefing here on Sunday, while demanding for introduction of a unitary tax system on food products in the state, said the 5% VAT levied on these items in the state which are exempted in 23 states in the country has led to rampant black marketing of these items leading to high prices as well as low revenue collection.

The Association has decided not to import suji, atta, wheat and pulses from other states.

“We have on several occasions made representations to the government urging it to do away with the tax on pulses and food grains, essential for survival. We have made our representations to the Finance minister, chief secretary, additional chief secretary, Finance and commissioner, commercial taxes in this context on several occasions. No other state has imposed tax on pulses and foodgrains. Our demand has fallen on deaf ears. Due to the government’s apathy we have decided to take the drastic step,” said Sudhakar Panda, general secretary of the Association.

The situation has led to spiraling of prices of these items and the traders are being blamed unnecessarily for it, he added.

The state government is all out to help the corporate houses at the cost of small businessmen leading to the exploitation of consumers and profiteering by unscrupulous persons, Panda pointed out.

The state consumes about 67,000 metric tonne (MT) of pulses and 12,000 MT of wheat products every month. A chunk of the consumption is imported from other states.

However, the existing flour mills of the state are catering to only 26% of the wheat and wheat products demand in the state, the Association alleged.

“We have proposed the government to impose 1% entry fee at check gates and exempt us from paying VAT. Though the state government has imposed the high rate of 5% VAT the amount of tax collected by the government is very less due to black marketing. Our proposal will boost revenue collection for the government as well as consumers will not be required to pay high prices”, said vice president of the Association Brij Mohan Agarwal.

The meeting decided that office bearers of the Association at the block and district level will inform the district collectors about their decision.