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Farmers ‘determined’ to continue protests

By Hana Namrouqa - Mar 06,2018 - Last updated at Mar 06,2018

Farmers stand outside Parliament protesting against the recent government’s decision to increase taxes in Amman on Monday (Photo by Osama Aqarbeh)

AMMAN — Farmers on Monday said they were "patient enough" to continue their month-long demonstrations opposite the Parliament, demanding the government's complete withdrawal of taxes on the agriculture sector. 

From early morning to sunset, farmers have stood daily on a fenced sidewalk across the entrance of the Lower House in Abdali, holding white banners addressed to decision makers that call for the government to annul taxation on agricultural production inputs and outputs.

"The government said last week that it is annulling its decision and restoring the tax to what it used to be only on agricultural outputs and what is locally produced. But what about the 10 per cent tax on agricultural inputs?" Ihsan Musharbesh, a farmer and member of a committee defending the rights of farmers told The Jordan Times on Monday outside Parliament.

In response to the sector leaders' demands and following the agriculture sector's strong condemnation and threats of escalation since the start of the year, the Cabinet decided last week to exempt agricultural outputs from the recent tax hikes.

But a substantial number of farmers united under the "committee defending the rights of farmers" said that the government's exemption means nothing on the ground.

"This is absurd! The government removes recently levied taxes on outputs, but keeps taxes on inputs! How does this help farmers and producers in any way, we are still losing," Musharbesh said.

Tareq Haroun, a cattle breeder, said that the government should swiftly remove taxes on agricultural inputs, which constitute 82-92 per cent of farmers' expenditure.

"Farmers are obliged to pay this levied sales tax whether they make profits or not, and we all know for a fact that farmers have been terribly losing for the past five to six years. Did this fact occur to decision makers?" Haroun told The Jordan Times.

Meanwhile, Mohammad Majali, member of the Poultry Breeders Union, said that the union proposed providing the local market with 2,000 job opportunities in a letter to the Cabinet, pending it annuls the decision all together. 

"The government will put many people, whether farmers or part of the production cycle, out of business. Our figures indicate that some 4,000 people could be laid off during the next few years if the government does not suspend its decision," Majali said.

Another farmer, who preferred to remain unnamed, said that the government's persistent taxation on agricultural inputs directly encourages importing.

"Is this what the government is after? To turn Jordan from self-sufficiency in produce and poultry products to dependence on imports?" the farmer noted.

Members of the "committee defending the rights of farmers" are scheduled to meet on Tuesday with a ministerial team to further discuss their demands, according to Musharbesh.

Ministers of agriculture, water, finance and planning and members of the Lower House Committee on Water and Agriculture are expected to meet with representatives of the protesting farmers, he said.

"We are meeting again tomorrow with the government, maybe to show us how wrong we are," Musharbesh said cynically.

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