Clarke raps critics over GCT removal on imported pigs, goats and horses

NEWELL, St Elizabeth – Minister of Finance Nigel Clarke has defended the Government’s decision for the removal of General Consumption Tax (GCT) on the importation of horses, pigs and goats, arguing that it will provide food security, in terms of the pigs and goats, and potential for increase in revenue.

The GCT removal, he said, was done in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture. “We are used to protein meat that is mostly chicken and beef. Chicken and beef can taste good, but the challenge is what we feed the chicken with and what we feed the cow with to supplement the grass, and it comes from commodity imports – soya bean and corn. The problem is that when there is global shock and crisis the price of commodities goes all the way up,” Clarke told a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) divisional conference at Newell High School in the St Elizabeth South Western constituency Sunday night as he responded to critics over the matter.

“The price of corn goes all the way up. The price of soya beans goes all the way up. What that means is that the food price goes all the way up, so you have a visionary minister of agriculture who said, ‘Look, what we want is to be able to rotate the food choice when [those] things happen’. The thing with goats and pigs is that you can supplement them and feed them with locally produced raw materials and food stock,” said Clarke.

Minister of Agriculture Floyd Green is the Member of Parliament for St Elizabeth South Western.

Clarke told JLP supporters that the reproduction among some livestock is low. “The price of goat meat and pig meat is not going to move like how the other moves when commodity prices go up. The problem is that the reproduction of goats and pigs in the country was at a dangerous low, because we never had the stock to be able to reproduce and nobody was importing pigs, goats or horses,” he said.

He added that the “the only amount that the Government raised in GCT for the imports was just six million dollars”.

“The idea is not that people [are] importing it and they say they want it be cheaper, it is essentially that nobody is importing it, but Jamaica needs the goat and the pigs to be here, so that they can be reproduced and stabilise food and increase food security,” Clarke said.

At the same time, he said 40 per cent of the mares and fillies in Jamaica could not reproduce. “They are either barren or they can’t breed for [some] other reason. That industry is a part of the gambling industry that gives eight billion dollars to the Jamaican purse – the consolidated fund. In order to protect the revenues to the country we have to make sure that industry can continue,” said Clarke.

“It is a dangerous situation where 40 per cent of what we have here in terms of horses cannot reproduce for a sector that employs thousands of persons either as groomsmen, as jockeys, as trainers, as the people who feed [the horses]…” he added.

He said since the removal of the GCT “900 goats have been imported to increase and improve the stock in Jamaica”.