ISLAMABAD: Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) on Friday ordered the Customs intelligence to grant one-time clearance to nine vessels carrying soybean shipments stuck at Port Qasim, Karachi and sought a compliance report in the matter within seven days.
Nine consignments of soyabean seeds have been stuck-up at Port Qasim, Karachi from last few days and FTO took a suo moto notice of the stuck-up consignments of imported soybean, i.e poultry feed at Port Qasim, Karachi by the Directorate of Intelligence and Investigation (I&I) Customs, Karachi and Department of Plant Protection (DPP).
On Thursday, the FTO office held a detailed hearing on the case at the FTO Secretariat wherein officials of the Revenue Division; Ministry of Food Security and Research; secretary Ministry of Climate Change; director general Directorate General of Intelligence and Investigation-Customs; Chief Customs (F&C), Federal Board of Revenue, and Pakistan Poultry Association were in attendance. The FTO heard the viewpoint of all the stakeholders and issued release order in this regard on Friday and sought compliance report within seven days.
During the course of hearing, the Directorate of Intelligence and Investigation (l&l) Customs categorically conveyed to the FTO that the agency has not stopped the imported consignments but only passed on the information to the concerned Department of Plant Protection (DPP) and asked DPP to ensure that any health hazard material should not be cleared under the name of imported soybeans. And, the poultry industry advocated consequences of non-availability of imported feed i-e soyabean seeds, saying there is no alternative of soybean or soybean meal for the poultry feed and further delay in clearance of the imported consignments would result in a severe shortage of chicken and eggs in the country while the poultry farms will have to shut down their operations across the country.
As per details, nine ships carrying 0.48million metric tons of soybean and 0.12 million MT of canola have been blocked by Directorate of Intelligence and Investigation (I&I) Customs, Karachi and Department of Plant Protection which are waiting for clearing.
In his recommendations, the FTO Dr Asif Mahmood Jah asked the Secretary, Revenue Division/Chairman FBR to communicate the recommendations to the federal government, Secretary, Ministry of Climate Change and Ministry of National Food Security & Research for immediate action.
According to the FTO’s five recommendations, the federal government to give immediate written directions to the Secretary, M/o Climate Change under Rule 27 of the Biosafety Rules, 2005, to issue approval of deliberate release on one time basis as a special case under the provisions of Rules 20(2) of ibid on provision of assurance and undertakings from the importers/complainant and relevant stakeholders. Similarly, on issuance of one-time deliberate release order from M/o Climate Change, under Rule 20(2) of the Biosafety Rules, 2005, the DG DPP, Karachi to issue release orders of the nine stuck-up consignments of soyabeans seeds at Port M. Qasim, Karachi. Likewise, Collector, Collectorate of Customs, Port M. Bin Qasim, Karachi, on receipt of Release Order from DPP, Karachi, immediately process the GDs (goods declarations) of the stuck-up consignment of soyabean and issue out of charge orders on one-time basis, securing the stuck-up revenue as per law. More, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and National Biosafety Committee to process the pending applications of the GMO soyabean importers for grant of license, as per law, under Rule 11 of the National Biosafety Rules, 2005. Furthermore, report compliance within seven days, said recommendations of the FTO.
The FTO, in his findings, said that nine consignments of soyabean seeds have got stuck up at Port Qasim, Karachi due to sudden intervention of the Directorate of I&I Customs, Karachi, on the apprehensions that the imported consignments may be of GMO (genetically modified organism) nature and in such an eventuality, the importers are required to obtain a license under Rule 11 of the National Biosafety Rules, 2005 from the EPA, M/o Climate Change, while the DPP is empowered to issue release certificate to the imported soyabean seeds consignments even if these are GMO provided importer has a valid license. In the subject matter the DPP, Karachi, has been issuing import authorization to all such import consignments of soyabean seeds since 2015 and the importers accordingly opened Letter of Credits (LCs) and affected the import of soyabean seeds crushing and for use of its residue for making poultry meals. The DPP is ignoring the agreed minutes between APHIS, USA and DPP, Pakistan and in negation of the Cartagena Protocol.
“Article 7, para 2, did not issue the required release order for these consignments, thus leading to an imminent issue of food insecurity and price hike of eggs and poultry products,” said findings of the FTO.
It added that this will also deprive the poor people of Pakistan from the cheapest source of protein due to non-availability of soyabean meal for the poultry industry of Pakistan.
AS per FTO findings, this situation needs to be immediately resolved inter alia to save the much precious foreign exchange paid by Pakistani importers to the tune of millions of US$ as 110 million has already been remitted while the remainder US$ 335 million is committed through established LCs, in addition to the cost of cargo, the delay is causing the importers around US$ 40,000 per day vessel, which totals to amount US$ 360,000 per day in vessel demurrage, to avoid poultry products shortage and to avoid an apparent immense escalation of eggs and poultry products prices which are used by the people of Pakistan as economical but good quality protein source in their diet.