Farmers paying the Garbage and Sewage Contribution (GSC) levy, which is set at 50 per cent of their water bill, are to receive a discount, said Minister of Water Resources Wilfred Abrahams.
Government is in the process of putting a cap on the levy, said Abrahams, who did not reveal the extent of the cap but stressed that Government was determined to apply the tax more equitably.
He said: “The Barbados Water Authority is working hard with the Minister of Agriculture and for the farmers we accept that some people may be disadvantaged because of the increased rates.
“Some of these people cannot manage to recover their input cost and this would largely include farmers.
But the Minister noted that Government was not in a position to grant any further reduction on new commercial use rates.
Abrahams said: “So, we are looking at a cap on the GSC. We may not necessarily be able to make an adjustment on the water rate for them, but we are looking at finding a cap for the GSC that would be a bit more equitable to those who have to use a certain amount of water.”
Commercial entities, including farms using water from the BWA supply, are expected to pay $4.66 per cubic metre up to 40 cubic metres. The rate moves to $7.78 for every cubic metre above 40 cubic metres of water, up 12,000 cubic metre, after which the rate reverts to $4.66 per cubic metre.
But even as he promised relief, Abrahams suggested that Government was seeking to make farms that go off the BWA grid pay for water they privately draw from underground wells for irrigation.
He said: “There is private abstraction from the systems that we are all supplied from and these persons are not paying a cent for it.
“There are a lot of farmers that benefit from that water and we are looking at ways to regulate that because every drop of water has to be accounted for and in a way that provides equity to as many people.”
Last August, the head of the Barbados Agricultural Society James Paul revealed commercial farmers fear that the tax would make it virtually impossible for them to compete against international producers.
“In terms of livestock farmers and those who use a lot of water for processing at their farms, the impact is going to be severe for them,” Paul, the BAS general manager and former Government backbencher in the Freundel Stuart administration, said.
“Any farmer who is registered commercially is worried because it carries up the price of the product and they have to compete with international producers,” he said last year.
Paul further contended that farmers were being taxed for waste disposal services that they do not use as they were levied the Garbage and Sewage Contribution at 50 per cent of their total water bill.