Hmmm, 15% VAT on imported food as hunger looms?

Dear Jag

Food for Peace- Voices from the Field_0They are selling cows in drought affected rural areas for as little as 50 US dollars a head. Normally villagers can expect to realize 300 – 400 US dollars for a cow but not this year. Things are so tough, money so short and conditions so hard that in some areas people are selling their cows because they can’t afford to keep them alive.

“Stock feed,” one man said to me in exclamation; “we can’t even afford to feed ourselves, let alone the cattle.”

Sixteen years ago this month land invasions began in Zimbabwe. At the time we were told they were “spontaneous demonstrations,” and as unbelievable as it is, they are still going on today. For every day, week, month and year that farm grabs continue, Zimbabwe remains in a perilous place. We are no longer self sufficient in food and for the last fifteen years have been importing at least eighty percent of our food from South Africa, Zambia and further afield. In my grocery bag this week the tea and eggs were local but the cereals, milk, cheese, coffee, butter and cleaning products were all imported. The bread is locally made but the majority of the ingredients used to produce it are imported.

In the last fortnight there have again been new farm seizures and evictions. Some make local and international news, others don’t, but the result is the same: less food, less employment, less money in pockets, less national income and for everyone involved: hunger, homelessness and despair.

It is sickeningly ironic that at the same time as this is happening a new 15% VAT duty on imported food has just come into effect. Imported products subject to the new VAT include the most basic ingredients in our shopping baskets such as : maize meal, flour, rice, cooking oil, potatoes, margarine, eggs, fruits and vegetables. Depending on which version of the propaganda you read the new tax on imported food is to either generate more income tax revenue or to “protect local industry from cheap imports.” Whatever the real reason for the new VAT on imported food, it couldn’t come at a worse time for the 90% of ordinary Zimbabweans who are unemployed and already struggling to feed themselves and their families.

But don’t worry! The government of Zimbabwe has just launched a national and international appeal for US$1.5 billion dollars to support sectors affected by drought. Vice President Mnangagwa said the most affected sectors are food and nutrition, agriculture, water, education, health, and wildlife. According to a report in the Financial Gazette, “Assistance can be in cash or food items “palatable to the populations” and these include maize, mealie-meal, small grains, flour, sugar beans and other legumes, dried fish and various types of dried vegetables, powdered milk, peanut butter, cooking oil, sugar, salt, maheu and baby formula.” Apparently grain importation has the largest budget in the appeal with US $717 292 000 being needed. Hmmm, now what’s 15% VAT on 717 million US dollars worth of imported grain? And hmmm again, aren’t most of the items on the requested food aid list also subject to the new 15% VAT?

Until next time, thanks for reading, love Cathy

Post published in: Agriculture

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