The Tamil Nadu Foodgrains Merchants Association has demanded the immediate scrapping of cess levied upon all the 300-odd food commodities sold in the State. It has called upon the government to provide requisite infrastructure such as well-equipped marketing yards, as available in other States, before collecting cess.

Addressing a press conference here on Thursday, association president S.P. Jeyapragasam said that wide consultations with traders should be held on this cess issue which affected over two lakh traders. Many commodities were not being sold through the marketing yards in the districts as they were poorly equipped and lacked infrastructure.

Quoting information obtained from the State government through the Right To Information Act, he said that the sale of groundnut in the regulated market had come down from 17.65 lakh during 1994-95 to 10.69 lakh during 2008-09. The association also called for scrapping the “permit system.”

He also came down upon the exemption granted to Chennai alone in this cess issue. “If a trader brought in his goods from Chennai Port, he does not have to pay cess. However, he has to shell out cess levies if he lands his goods through Tuticorin Port.”

Further, cess was being levied upon food products that were sold outside the yards. He also called for scrapping the G.O. No. 361, which dealt with the cess.

Speaking later, association vice-president P. Subash Chandra Bose said that another information obtained through RTI Act revealed that nearly 600 trade bodies had registered their opposition to cess.

Mr. Bose is also the chairman of a Cess Committee formed by the association with representatives from various trade bodies across Tamil Nadu.

While the government held wide deliberations prior to the implementation of value added tax (VAT), which fetched revenues to the tune of Rs. 25,000 crore, Mr. Jeyapragasam said that it should follow the same procedure for levying cess, which fetches only around Rs. 50 crore.