KOTA KINABALU - A proposed state sales tax on seafood products taken out of Sabah is worrying fishermen.
Sabah Fisheries and Fishing Boat Owners Association Federation chairman Arsani Arshad said fishermen would likely bear the brunt of such a sales tax.
"Factory operators and exporters will pass on any additional costs by pushing down the prices they pay fishermen," he said, urging the state government to reconsider the tax.
"If the factories are paying fishermen RM3 (S$1.15) per kilo for a certain type of fish, they will reduce it to RM2.50 if the sales tax is 50 sen.
"So, the low prices they offer will be driven even lower. We would have little choice but to accept it," Arsani said.
On Friday, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said a new sales tax would be imposed on exported seafood products to ensure a sustainable supply of fish in Sabah, besides increasing the state's revenue.
Arsani said many seafood-processing factory operators and exporters had already signed contracts with their buyers, which meant that the prices had been "locked in".
"A seafood exporter cannot tell his buyer that a shipment has increased by 50 sen per kilo just because the government has imposed this sales tax," he added.
He said while processing factory operators only had to wait for the seafood to be brought in, fishermen, on the other hand, had to buy fuel and stock up on ice before going out to sea without knowing the potential catch.
"It could be one tonne or more or it could be nothing at all because of sea conditions. These are the risks we face," Arsani said, adding that fishermen also had to pay more for fuel now.
He said they had no choice but to sell their catch to processing factories as Sabah's population was too small to absorb all of their catch.
In addition, he said the sales tax could make Sabah's seafood more expensive.