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Tunisia: Seafood exporters are angry over tax on export turnover

 Authorized Tunisian companies exporting seafood products are 90 companies. 10 export tuna, 6 shellfish or clams and between 15 and 25 out of 95 operate in the field of fresh or frozen fish.
Value exports of these companies amounted  to 250 TDM, or 21 thousand tons. This amount records a small change compared to 2007, mainly because of the euro. In response, the demand for exports have dropped, according to some businessmen contacted by us. One of them pointed out  that instead of the 25 shipments per week on average that he was securing before this crisis, he now secures only 3 or 4 shipments a week to foreign customers.  Local prices for export are keeping high, and  trawlers would not even undock if exports were not on track.

 … A new tax on export turnover!

While this situation is deteriorating and as more than a Tunisian company among the industry leaders, and even some foreign ones, have already shut up, the Tunisian Ministry of Agriculture is planning to set up a new tax on exports. A tax that, according to professionals, would break the very principle of encouraging exports and all  presidential measures taken  for export in general and  fisheries sector in particular , the last of which was the cancellation (though not yet effective) of the landing fee.
The new  tax as high as 2%  will be imposed  on  turnover of sea  products exports This tax would  aim to fund the biological  rest devised  to ensure the renewal of the fish wealth in Tunisian fisheries .

The exporters hardly understand why the Tunisian Ministry of Agriculture did not involve them nor the Utica (The employers union) in working out  this measure, which hits them directly and , moreover, occurs in times of crisis and lean years as far as export is concerned. A letter of protest “had been sent by exporters on 9 January 2009, to the Minister of Agriculture.
According to El Abed Trad, president of the exporters of seafood products union, this new tax as designed and because it would replace the old one, would be imposed on the export turnover as evidenced by invoices. And yet, the turnover includes a number of factors, such as the cost of labour, the cost of  fish processing  which reduces the weight at the export level , sea ice, transportation and the whole production process. “Even the tax is not imposed on the turnover, but on profits,” says El Abed Trad who does not understand that this measure which could make exports decline, may even cause bankruptcy of many Tunisian seafood exporters  An opinion shared also by Abdelwaheb Ben Romdhane, Sfax “Calambo” general manager whose current production doesn’t go beyond  5% of the production capacity of his business . He believes that «the industry already in crisis, cannot put up with this new tax. » A meeting with the fishermen of Sfax, (some of whom would be Deputies and members of the UTAP Executive Board), held last week, has even reflected a sort of fit of anger among fishermen and the industrialists of the region.

2% of turnover = 80% of profit!

“2% of turnover may represent 80 to 90% of the company profit» he says with frustration and misunderstanding.».”We agree with the biological rest , that is a good thing for everybody,” he adds. “But it  applies to  both  fisherman and the processing plant. Why the sole exporter has  to put up with the biological rest and thus pays the workers in our factories? “He wondered with dismay.

Trad also specifies that the biological rest would be done automatically, in summer for example through streamline shape “and everywhere, it is supported through funds set up by the fishermen, “says the union representative adding:” I am for compromise and the economic crisis our sector is facing requires to postpone this measure, harmful to our exports and Tunisian exports in general. ” Will he be heard?

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