By Parvaiz Ishfaq Rana
KARACHI, Sept 14: The Kenyan government has restricted import of rice from Pakistan by stopping clearance of consignments at the customs stage.
According to a message received by rice exporters, the customs authorities in Nairobi for the last 45 days had been adopting various tactics to discourage rice imports from Pakistan.
Initially, the Kenyan Commissioner General of customs directed the field officers not to clear rice consignments which have arrived and even those whose entry is in progress until further orders, said a rice exporter.
Many leading rice importers from Kenya have stopped procuring rice from Pakistan which exports around 350,000 tons of white rice annually.
A leading rice exporter has urged the government to take up the issue with the Kenyan government, and the authorities there be reminded that Pakistan being largest importer of tea from Kenya could easily counter the move.
However, exporters are at loss as to how Kenyan customs are acting as controller of imports and exports whereas it is totally a policy matter which the government of Kenya has to announce.
They said no official Kenyan government notification or announcement had been made but the customs authorities have unilaterally taken this move which does not fall in their domain.
After detaining huge rice consignments from Pakistan for over two weeks, the Kenyan customs allowed their release but not without conditions.
The customs authorities asked importers to submit undertakings and also demanded lab test of all consignments.
However, importers have complained that the Kenyan customs have no trained staff to verify samples and the system is so defective that no rice consignments could be cleared.
The samples, they said, are mishandled which causes their contamination. Moisture, weevils infest and other foreign particles also find their way into containers.
Consequently, there is a possibility that rice import consignment may be rejected on the basis of these sample tests for no fault of exporters and importers, they added.
Above all exporters said all rice consignments sent to Kenya carry quality certification from PSI-nominated companies by importers.
But the customs authorities continue to demand letter of undertaking from importers and also seek lab test results prior to release of consignments which was never in practice in the past, they added.
However, exporters complained that still huge quantity of rice is lying at the Kenyan ports due to non-clearance by customs authorities and this has caused colossal loss to rice trade.
Exporters said that rice exporters’ representative body Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (Reap) has an understanding with the Kenyan Bureau Standards with regard to rice quality and standard imported from Pakistan.
Exporters have demanded that Islamabad should immediately take up the issue with Kenyan government and seek resumption of rice imports from Pakistan without any condition or restriction.
Moreover, the government should also seek payment of compensation.