By John Baptist Ahumuza
Kampala: The Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) has warned rice traders in Kampala and the country at large against smuggling rice into the country, as this counts as a loss to a growing country like Uganda.
The warning was sounded by Mr. Abel Kagumire, the commissioner in charge of customs, during the meeting with Kampala traders on Wednesday at their headquarters in Nakawa, Kampala.
This comes at a time when the Uganda Revenue Authority impounded several tons of premium rice at a consolidated center in Muwayo along Sibala Road, Busia, in July this year, following intelligence reports.
During the meeting, Kagumire, who represented the Commissioner General, Mr. John Musinguzi Rujoki, revealed that rice traders had made it a daily routine to escape the taxman’s noose by concealing their goods under declaration, using the available porous borders at Mutukula, Busia, Malaba, and Portbell to avoid paying tax.
Kagumire added that Uganda cannot continue charging the same tax on rice as Kenya and Tanzania, who declared hunger in their countries and also requested tax waivers on rice from Pakistan.
“The issue of rice being held at the borders of Mutukula, Portbell, Busia, and Malaba started way back when Kenya and Tanzania declared hunger in their countries and applied to get rice from Pakistan at a lower cost. This implies that Uganda can no longer charge the same tax on rice from these countries. This is because the laws affirm that when you are facing hunger, you are not permitted to share food with your neighbors, following the Preferential Trade System,” said Kagumire.
Kagumire further disclosed that traders have always taken advantage of the prevailing situation and mixed up rice from these countries with the intention of smuggling it into the country, a thing that URA cannot tolerate.
However, in response, the furious traders demanded that URA release their goods and also treat them with respect.
Kabanda John, the Chairman of the New Generation Traders Association of Uganda, called on government officials to collaborate with traders for a mutual understanding.
“Government officials, we are requesting that you collaborate with these traders because when they fail, you will also leave your offices. These traders have acquired loans from various banks, and impounding their goods only worsens the situation,” said Kabanda.
In 2022, the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) recovered Shillings 79 billion from contraband goods impounded on their way to the country. Julius Nkwasile Mponoka, the Assistant Commissioner in Charge of Enforcement at URA, said that the commodities were impounded in June 2022 under their operation dubbed “Zabike”.
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