Local farmers believe they can counteract the virus fallout if the government stands by them
The country's poultry and livestock sectors want major fiscal policy support from the government in the forthcoming budget to offset the fallout from the novel coronavirus.
Poultry growers who provide low-income people with a major source of protein have demanded advance tax exemption on capital machinery import. Meanwhile, the stock raisers have demanded increasing duties on meat and dairy product import to save the local farmers.
In a letter to the National Board of Revenue (NBR) just ahead of the national budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year, they demanded the withdrawal of all direct and indirect taxes, including advance tax, advance income tax, customs duty and regulatory duty on raw materials, vaccines and capital machinery import.
According to the Bangladesh Poultry Industry Central Council (BPICC), the sector has lost at least Tk3,500 crore as a result of the pandemic.
The BPICC claims coronavirus has dealt poultry breeding, egg and meat production, feed industry and medicine production a mighty blow.
"The monthly production dropped to 30 tonnes only from 90 tonnes as 30-35 percent poultry farms were shuttered. Around 35-40 percent of the total working capital will dry out by this June-July period," the BPICC informed the NBR in the letter.
It said the crisis will push 15-20 lakh people into facing short and long-term losses, mainly affecting the rural economy. At present, at least 60 lakh people directly or indirectly rely on poultry farming in the country.
"The shutdown devastated the supply chain, resulting in poultry and egg prices falling even below production costs. Many poultry growers had to close down their farms," BPICC President Mosiur Rahman told The Business Standard.
He said the sector will be plunged in further trouble if the government lets it drift.
In the meantime, the Breeders Association of Bangladesh has also written to the NBR, demanding heavy duty on the import of chicken meat.
The association claimed importers are bringing in white meat with 33-53 percent duty, which clearly has put local farmers in a difficult situation.
The Breeders Association proposed levying more than 127 percent duty on chicken meat import in order to protect local farmers.
'Increase import duty on meat, dried milk'
The Bangladesh Dairy Farmers Association will also ask the revenue board to slap heavy duties on import of red meat and dairy products to save local producers.
The association said that the pandemic has forced stock raisers into facing tough times with livestock feed becoming dearer.
"Comparatively low-priced imported products flood the market. Local farmers are now in an unequal fight with imported goods even amid the virus crisis," said the farmers' association.
They proposed a hike in powdered milk import duty to 60 percent and a doubling of import duty on red meat.
Cattle raisers say while local beef price is Tk600 per kilogram, frozen and imported meat brands are being sold for less than the local price by Tk100-150.
Shah Imran, General Secretary of Bangladesh Dairy Farmers Association, said that the local farmers do not get fair prices for milk. Worse, many Bangladeshi firms import dried milk through keeping their powdered milk plants shut.
He said, "I agree that our red meat production cost is a bit high. But we have some issues which we informed the government about several times. We also can sell red meat at a lower price if those issues are resolved."