Imported sugar stranded at customs office

Dhangadi, April 19

Thanks to the directives of Finance Minster Yub Raj Khatiwada and Department of Customs Director General Toyam Raya to increase the reference price of imported sugar, consumers in Province 7 are being cheated by as much as eight rupees per kilogram of the commodity.

The directives have encouraged smugglers who have been smuggling sugar by avoiding taxes for years. As per data, 96 per cent of the total 30,000 metric tones of sugar consumed in the province every year comes illegally.

Acting customs Chief Gopikrishna Upreti admitted that a huge amount of sugar imported from India is stranded at Dhangadi-based Trinagar customs due to an order to allow the commodity in only as per the new reference price.

“A few days ago, the owners of Nepalese sugar industry had met the minister concerned and the DG to express their concerns about the impact of cheaply imported sugar on domestic industries. Hence the recent order of the higher authority might have to do with the industrialists’ concerns,” he reasoned. “The importers have submitted papers which show that they have bought sugar at 26 Indian rupees in the Indian market but as there has been an order to allow the import of sugar by recognising the reference price at 30 IRs, the same has led to the stoppage of sugar consignment at the customs,” said the acting customs chief.

“Consumers who are now paying up to 80 rupees for one kg sugar could get it for 72 rupees if brought through the legal channel,” said Harishankar Thakur, a Dhangadi-based trader, accusing the department of encouraging smugglers with its new policy. “The new policy has definitely hit consumers and traders hard and also caused huge loss in revenue to the country, while at the same time encouraged smugglers,” he added.

Traders also suspect a huge financial shenanigan behind preventing the ingress of sugar brought through legal channels. It’s been four days since the 1,500 quintal sugar imported by Thakur Trade Link and Bajarang Suppliers reached the customs.

As per official data, only 13,000 kg sugar has been imported through the Trinagar customs point in the past seven months of the present fiscal. Similarly, nominal amount of sugar is imported through the second largest entry point of the province — Gadda Chowki.

“It has been found that around 96 per cent of the total sugar used in the province comes through illegal channels without paying the customs duties,” said Salt Trading Assistant General Manager Keshav Prasad Pande. “We don’t get sugar from other parts of the country except a few hundred quintals at subsidized price during Dashain and Tihar. Otherwise most of the sugar is brought from India, again, mostly without paying customs duty,” Pande further said, estimating the loss in revenue to be worth over 480 million rupees every year due to smuggling.

Customs Department DG Raya, on his part, suggested that traders find legal remedy to redress their concerns. As for the reported problem in the import of sugar through legal channel from the minister’s and the department’s order, he didn’t want to comment. “Put this question to the customs office of Kailali,” he said, dodging the issue.