To me, it seems Customs is confused on this matter. In the first instance, the Comptroller General of Customs said at his first policy statement that in order to increase Customs revenue and help importers of rice, the Service will lift the ban on importation of rice through the land border last year. I believe what he said then was in order because once rice is coming in through the land borders and duties are collected, there is nothing the government is losing. But now that they have re-imposed the ban, it will be more difficult to import rice which is one of the staple foods we have in the country through the seaport. The effect of this will be increase in the rate of smuggling of the commodity. For the CG to say they are reintroducing the ban to stop smuggling to me is like the CG is confused. The government presently is looking at diversifying the economy because we need more revenue from the non-oil sector but with this ban by customs, certainly it will affect their revenue collection yet they cannot stop smuggling of rice into the country because they don’t have what it takes to adequately man the borders.
It is not up to a year Customs unban importation of rice through the land border now they have banned it again. To me, it is as if they are just doing trial and error because before government should do something like that, they have to think over it in a positive and negative way. You cannot just wake up to unban and ban. Am not here to castigate anyone but before they do anything, they have to look at the interest of the poor masses. The revenue the government is losing to smuggling is high so when they said people should import through the land borders and pay duty they meant well, i don’t know why they chose to ban it again. Did you hear how much the Seme border generated recently? It was massive and I know the money came from rice importation which came in through the land borders. The country said it is working on agriculture but we have not seen any significant success in the sector yet. Government should think of banning importation of rice when there is significant success in rice plantation. With the reintroduction of the ban, there will be increase in smuggling because the policy is a misstep.
I sincerely condemn the ban on importation of rice through the land borders because it is not in the interest of the nation or the citizens but for selfish interest of the Customs and some few selfish groups.
Unfortunately, it seems the CG of Customs does not know what he is saying because it does not make any difference to me. Why ban it when Customs can collect duty from it when it is imported through the land border? With the ban from the land borders now, importers will rather smuggle them in instead of going through the seaport where they will pay higher duty. I think the government should totally review the policy on rice.
I know that with the reintroduction of the ban, rice importation will suffer some set back because we will have a lot of it coming through the borders which will never be accounted for and appropriate duty not paid.
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