Rice farmers protest selective tax exemptions

Rice farmers under their umbrella; Rice Association of Uganda (RAU) have petitioned Speaker Rebecca Kadaga over ‘selective’ tax concessions. While meeting Kadaga on Monday, the farmers from Butaleja district led by the chairperson of the association, Rachel Mbabazi expressed dissatisfaction over government favouritism towards some rice importers by giving them 100% tax holidays.

“Government has been favouring some importers or companies by giving them waivers of 100% importation all the times. They claim they are millers and that they don’t have rice and want tax concession to import the rice and yet farmers are stuck with rice without market,”
Mbabazi said.

She says this has had an adverse effect on rice farmers for the last three years.

In 2004, government adopted a new policy for rice growing and the idea was to encourage production of rice. This policy has since then made rice growing very profitable until 2015 when government started giving concessions to companies reducing on import duty.

According to Mbabazi, this selective concession to companies has left farmers with no market for their rice.

“We urge Parliament through you, the Speaker to help government effect the East Africa Community Common External Tariff. It is not that we are against concessions, but we want it to be done within the law and if we are to change the tariffs then it should be done by law, not selectively,” Mbabazi said, adding that selective application of concessions create loopholes for smuggling.

RAU has been pushing government to change erratic policies on the importation of rice, which affect domestic production and prices of rice.

Mbabazi told Kadaga that on April 16 this year, a group of rice companies through an association-Rice Millers Council of Uganda met President Yoweri Museveni whom they asked to give them a tax
Concession, a thing he agreed to.

Speaker Kadaga vowed to notify the President and also write to the minister of Finance to ensure that the matter is comprehensively handled.

“For now, I will not say much, let me go and study your petition and I will write to the ministry of finance and also notify the president,” Kadaga said.