Lowering the VAT on bread to 9 per cent could bring in extra budget revenues of approximately RON 100 M, Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Daniel Constantin stated for Agerpres, money.ro informs. “Lowering the VAT on staple foodstuffs is and remains a priority for the USL government, but also for me. We are involved in advanced talks in order to introduce a pilot-programme on lowering the VAT on bread to 9 per cent, and I am talking about the entire chain, from cereals to production and panification, most likely starting in Q2, on July 1, 2013. We decided to start with bread because tax evasion in this sector stands at 70 per cent and I believe lowering the VAT will stimulate a hike in budget revenues and a drop in evasion,” Constantin stated, adding: “The talks with the IMF on introducing this programme will start in March-April, when the negotiations on the new agreement with the IMF will start and we will discuss the numbers.” The Agriculture and Rural Development Minister added that the measure will not be applied to pastry products such as cookies, pound cakes etc. Constantin also stated that he is involved in advanced talks with the Finance Ministry in order to rethink the taxation system in the agriculture sector and the proposals will be put up for public debate by the end of January. The Minister considers that the absorption of European funds in 2013 will stand at EUR 1.3 bln in order to avoid disengagements. At the same time, the number of financing requests filed to the Agency for Payments for Rural Development and Fisheries (APDRP) reached approximately 140,000 up to now, the value of the requests surpassing EUR 17 bln in non-reimbursable European funds, the institution announced in a press communiqué on Tuesday. The Agriculture Minister also announced that the ministry’s institutional reform and the reform of the units under its control will start this year. “There will most likely be eight Agricultural Directorates, and by the end of March we will come up with a plan on reorganizing the ministry, the central apparatus and the units under its control. I believe that the Agricultural Directorate should have been restructured long ago, maybe the time has come now, during my term, but this has to be done as fast as possible,” the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MADR) official stated. When it comes to the projects meant to promote Romanian agricultural products and to hike the export of processed agricultural products, Constantin mentioned that in February this year Romania will be “the country of the year” at the largest fair for organic food in the world, which offers recognition to the fact that organic farming has developed in Romania. Likewise, Romania will host the World Congress of Vine and Wine in June, at the Palace of Parliament.