Tobacco farmers urge NA speaker to help resolve ‘advance tax’ issue

LAHORE: Tobacco farmers and industrial workers have requested National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser to play his role against the imposition of advance tax in order to safeguard the local industry.

“We demand the government not to increase the existing advance tax on tobacco,” representatives of industrial workers and farmer said in a letter written to the speaker.

The letter recalled the fact that it was because of the speaker’s intervention that the government had withdrawn the decision to impose Rs300 advance tax in 2019.

“We request you to help the tobacco farmers and industrial workers again,” the letter said.

It explained that multinational companies are trying their best that the government enhance advance tax on tobacco, which will annihilate the local industry and help establish their monopoly.

The farmers fear “exploitation” at the hands of the multinational companies once their monopoly is established.

“We request you to help the tobacco farmers and industrial workers once again,” the letter said.

The local tobacco industry is providing more than 20,000 jobs, whereas the multinationals are known for throwing people out of jobs.

Last year, the government had proposed imposition of Rs300 advance tax per kilogram on tobacco, which triggered protests and demonstrations by the farmers and industrial workers.

Under the proposals, the farmers had to sell the crop for Rs130 per kilogram to the tobacco companies but they would have to pay Rs300 tax per kilogram.

There are more than 22 small companies in the province that are producing 98 per cent of the tobacco crop in areas including Buner and Mansehra, Shergarh in Mardan and Charsadda and Swabi districts. Swabi is considered to be major producer where tobacco is not only a cash crop but also the lone source of livelihood for millions of households.

Signatories of the letter sent to the NA speaker included Mehnat Kash Labour Federation President Abrar Ullah, Kisan Board Pakistan President Rizwanullah, Sarhad Agricultural and Rural Development Organisation President Haji Abdul Nabi Mohmand, Tahaffuz Haqooq Kashtkaran President Liaqat Yousafzai and Mazdoor Kisaan Coordinator Mohammad Iqbal.

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