Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal has proposed higher duties and value-added tax (VAT) on the imports of dates, cashew nuts and non-fortified basmati rice.
To safeguard the interests of local cashew nut gardeners, the finance minister in the national budget for FY24 proposed increasing the import duty on shelled cashews from 15.25 per cent to 43 per cent.
Due to the production of cashew nuts in hilly regions and the establishment of numerous local processing factories, the government has come up with the duty hikes, he said.
The finance minister also recommended imposing a 15 per cent VAT at the import stage on non-fortified basmati rice, which also applies to fortified basmati rice.
Moreover, the government has proposed raising duties on dates, a fruit for which the country is entirely import-dependent. The suggested custom duties and VATs on dates at the import stage are 25 per cent and 15 per cent, respectively, up from zero per cent.
SM Nazer Hossain, vice president of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh, said that the government should not categorise dates as luxury food items like cashew nuts or basmati rice.
He argued that dates have become an essential commodity throughout the year for many people, despite the country's heavy dependence on imports.
According to him, dates are a key food item during the month of Ramadan, as Muslims break their fast with dates.
He urged the government to promptly reconsider its decision to impose higher duties on dates.
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