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ISLAMABAD: Leadership of tobacco growers of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and officer bearers of different organizations of KPK Agricultural and Rural Development have proposed the budget markers to provide relief to tobacco growers of KPK in the wake of coronavirus pandemic and fix advance tax on cigarettes products instead of imposing tax on growers in budget (2020-21).

Addressing a press conference at the National Press Club, Islamabad here on Tuesday, heads of different Organizations of Tobacco growers and unions of Industrial Labor Workers from KPK including Kisan Board Pakistan, Sarhad Agricultural and Rural Development Organization, Pakistan Tobacco Workers Association, Anjuman-e-Tahafuz-e-Haqooq-e-Kashtkaran, Labors Federation stated that tobacco is only cash-crop of KPK, which has been contributing billions of rupees in national exchequer as Federal Excise Duty and also providing sustenance to millions of people in KPK.

All these KPK based organizations shared their budget proposals for 2020-21 which were submitted to the Ministry of Finance and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) for consideration from next fiscal year. They categorically stated that the advance tax on tobacco will ruin the growers and farmers of KPK and create monopoly of multinational tobacco companies in Pakistan and resulted massive unemployment in KPK, according to growers and farmers. The companies use to exploit local tobacco industry and exploit local tobacco growers and farmers as they purchase tobacco from farmers on the cut rates.

The tobacco growers proposed that government instead of imposing advance tax on tobacco growers and farmers should impose taxes on cigarettes products. The growers further proposed that proposed advanced tax on tobacco growers Rs.500/kg will ruin tobacco sector and millions of people associated with this cash-crop.

They appealed to PTI government to reinstate the prevailing tax structure without imposing advance tax for tobacco crop adding that in the current year in wake of Covid-19 and amidst hailstorms, wheat and other crops in KPK witnessed a decreased production up to 40 percent. Therefore, the government instead of imposing direct advance tax on tobacco growers and farmers should impose tax on tobacco products cigarettes.

Addressing the Press Conference, Sadar Mehnatkash Labor Federation Ibrarullah said that local Tobacco sector in KPK has been providing jobs to thousands of workers, while on other side, multinational companies in KPK have terminated hundreds of workers from their employments, and their subsequent cases are in courts. He said that Pakistan Tobacco Company Akurakhattak has refused to acknowledge Mahnatkash Labor Union, which has also been registered with Pakistan Labor Department, and this company has been exploiting thousands of workers.

Sadar Anjuman Tahfuz-e-Haqooq-e-Kashtkaran Haji Naimatullah said that in 2019 with efforts of Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser, PTI Government ceased advanced tax on tobacco growers, but in the budget of 2020-21, there are also suggestions to impose Rs500/kg advanced tax on tobacco which will have serious economic implications on tobacco growers and farmers in KPK.

While President Sarhad Agricultural and Rural Development Haji Abdul Nabi said that advance tax on tobacco will be tantamount to added burden on poor growers and farmers. He said KPK farmers own tobacco as sole cash-crop in the province, as they grow neither rice nor cotton owing to weather issues. He said tobacco sector in KPK has been providing billions of rupees tax to the government and advanced tax on tobacco farmers will ruin this sector at local level.

President Pakistan Tobacco Workers Association, Liaqat Yousafzai said that with prosperity of farmers, the country will be also get prosperous, adding that government should impose all added and advanced tax on tobacco product (Cigarettes pack) instead of imposing these taxes on poor tobacco growers.

He also demanded that local tobacco growers should also be include in Pakistan Tobacco Board. We appeal to Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief Minister of KPK to provide relief to tobacco sector as they have provided relief to all other sectors of the province in wake of Covid-19.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020