Members of the Ghana-Cote d’Ivoire Rice Importers Association have registered their protest against the rise in the custom duty they pay for importing rice from Cote d’Ivoire.
According to members of the association, made up Ghanaian business people who import rice from Cote d’Ivoire, the over 100 per cent increase in customs duty had adversely affected their businesses as they could no longer import from Cote d’Ivoire, a situation that had also forced prices of rice to rise on the Ghanaian market.
They indicated that a bag of 25 kilos of Uncle Sam brand of rice, for instance, which sold at GH¢24, was now selling at GH¢54 and consequently appealed to the government to step in, since they believed some “unseen hands” were behind those developments.
At a news conference in Kumasi on Tuesday, attended by about 200 of the members to express their disgust at the development, the secretary of the association, Mr Mensah Bonsu, indicated that before the end of August, 2010, they were paying $10 for 25kg of rice as customs duty to the Government of Ghana.
However, he said the duty had been increased to $24 per 25kg of rice since September, 2010, a situation the association saw as disincentive to the growth of indigenous business.
A directive from the deputy commissioner in charge of operations of the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) to the regional commander of CEPS in Sunyani, dated September 9, 2010, cited by the Daily Graphic at the news conference, stated that “Management has noticed with concern the use of unacceptably low value ($0.13/kg or $0.29/kg) for the clearing of rice from Cote d’Ivoire.
“Through your collection you are hereby directed to apply F.O.B. value as follows in importation of rice: - $0.97/kg (all brands), 5 per cent F.O.B. (broken rice), $0.42/kg (all brands). The instructions take immediate effect.”
Mr Bonsu told the news conference that with the astronomical increase in customs duties, “we anticipate that the price per 25 kilos bag of rice is likely to be sold at GH¢75 or more, a situation which is likely to impact adversely on the consuming public.”
He also said the association had noticed that foreigners in Ghana who were into the importation of rice brought large consignments of rice which they kept in bonded warehouses.
“Unlike those of us who import from Ivory Coast, these foreigners are allowed to sell their rice before they pay the customs duty.
“What we have observed is that the foreigners evade customs duty because in most cases they come up with excuses that their bags of rice in the bonded warehouses have gone bad and as such are not made to pay customs duty on those rice,” he said.
Meanwhile, he noted, those bags of rice which were declared to have gone bad always find their way onto the market.
The situation, he noted, affected the local small and medium-scale importers of rice as they resulted in huge financial losses, as competition from the foreigners was unfair.
“We believe that a big foreign rice importing company is behind the CEPS directive with the sole aim of monopolising the rice importation business in the country.
The association, therefore, appealed to the government to take a look at the development to ensure that the right thing was done to save their businesses.