India cuts tax rates on some goods under national sales tax

The council has so far taken more than 190 items, including washing machines and leather goods, out of the highest tax rate. (File/AFP)
Updated 22 December 2018

India cuts tax rates on some goods under national sales tax

  • Modi is seeking a second term in next five months amid voter frustration over the abrupt implementation of a nationwide goods and services tax (GST)
  • The GST council agreed to lower the tax on some goods including televisions, batteries and movie tickets

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: India slashed the sales tax rate on over 20 items on Saturday in a move aimed at appealing to traders and the middle class after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party lost elections in five states.
Modi is seeking a second term in next five months amid voter frustration over the abrupt implementation of a nationwide goods and services tax (GST) in July 2017 that has resulted in job losses for thousands of workers in small businesses.
The GST council, headed by India’s finance minister Arun Jaitley, agreed to lower the tax on some goods including televisions, batteries and movie tickets.
The council cut tax rates on six items from the highest tax rate of 28 percent to 18 percent and on one item — wheelchairs and parts — to five percent.
Most other items saw tax rates cut from 18 percent to 12 percent and five percent.
The council has so far taken more than 190 items, including washing machines and leather goods, out of the highest tax rate. Only 34 items — particularly luxury goods — remain in the top slab of 28 percent.
“It is decided to retain sin (such as alcohol and tobacco) and luxury goods in 28 percent bracket. Cement and some auto parts are also still in 28 percent slab,” Jaitley told reporters.
On Tuesday, Modi said the government was planning to cut the number of items taxed at the highest rate so that over 99 percent of items, with the exception of luxury goods, come under the 18 percent or lower rates.
A report by the country’s largest bank State Bank of India estimated that federal and state governments could face a shortfall of about 900 billion rupees ($12.83 billion) in GST tax collections in the current fiscal year against the budget target of 12.9 trillion rupees.


A homegrown UAE brand bets on date’s heritage appeal

Updated 29 February 2020

A homegrown UAE brand bets on date’s heritage appeal

  • Dates are locally sourced by The Date Room from around 20 farms in the Al Ain oasis area of Abu Dhabi
  • UAE farms grow about 475,000 tons of dates a year, a significant percentage of which is exported

DUBAI: When you can answer the classic business question about a unique selling proposition (USP) in six different ways, you likely have a successful product on your hands.

Thankfully, when you are dealing with dates, unusual product features are not a problem.

There are more than 3,000 date varieties around the world, but Emirati brand The Date Room is approaching the sticky business of breaking into an established market with just half a dozen local cultivars.

From the buttery, caramel notes of the golden Kholas date to the lower-carbohydrate Razaiz type, their flavors offer a change from the more commonly available Medjool and Deglet Noor varieties.

Being locally sourced from about 20 farms in the Al-Ain oasis area of Abu Dhabi, they are also introducing UAE residents to the nation’s heritage.

“Emirati dates are unique because they’re generally much richer in taste and texture than others on the market — although they can be smaller in size,” said Tony N. Al-Saiegh, executive director of The Date Room.

The Date Room launched with two luxury boutiques in the UAE last November after founder Ahmed Mohamed bin Salem spotted a gap for local fruit in a market dominated by produce from Saudi farms.

While official market share by origin data is not available, Saudi dates may control close to 90 percent of the UAE’s retail market.

Yet, with an annual production of 755,000 tons, Saudi Arabia trails Egypt, Iran and Algeria, all of which produce in excess of a million tons each year, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

By contrast, UAE farms grow about 475,000 tons, a significant percentage of which is exported.

Dates are among the world’s oldest cultivated crops. The palm is native to the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, with origins that go back more than 5,000 years to what is modern-day Iraq.

The appeal of dates has grown considerably in recent years. Their high fiber and mineral profile have led to their classification as a superfood, they have been used for their high natural sugar content in healthy natural alternatives to processed candy bars.

“The Date Room’s main initial motive was the fact that our own farms produce a superior quality of date in every way,” Al-Saiegh said.

“Our families have been enjoying these dates with every meal and occasion for generations, so why not introduce it to the market in a way that makes them available to everyone but also promotes the unique culture of the UAE?”

The company’s annual production runs to about 160 tons.

For now, distribution is restricted to the UAE, but Al-Saiegh says his team is in talks with distributors in India and Indonesia.

With farmers everywhere agonizing over the impact of climate change, what are the challenges facing date farmers, accustomed as their crops are to heat and aridity?

Scientists expect 2019 to be the second-hottest year on record after 2016, and they forecast that by 2070, today’s major producers will suffer from a markedly unsuitable climate.

Despite palm trees being able to tolerate the heat for hundreds of years, Al-Saiegh says his farms are already feeling the impact.

“As the weather gets hotter and the summers get longer, it’s drying out farms and (arable) land. This means more water is required because a lack of water affects the size and texture of the fruit,” he explains.

While the full impact of those changes is some years away, the Abu Dhabi government has focused on conserving the UNESCO World Heritage oasis where the UAE’s dates are grown.

On the other hand, given the way technology has transformed the local agricultural sector with solutions such as vertical, indoor and soilless farms, Al-Saiegh may soon be able to add another distinguishing feature to The Date Room’s USP.

• This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.