Govt refuses to budge on impasse with FMCG importers

Updated April 03, 2019

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At present 40 consignments of food products in consumer packaging are lying uncleared at the Karachi Port and Port Qasim. ─ Reuters/File
At present 40 consignments of food products in consumer packaging are lying uncleared at the Karachi Port and Port Qasim. ─ Reuters/File

LAHORE: The government has categorically refused to reverse its decision of imposing new labelling requirements on the imported Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCGs) or even to delay their implementation in spite of pressure brought from large importers, including multinational companies (MNCs) operating in Pakistan.

“We are not considering any proposal to delay, let alone revoke, the implementation of the order” Mohammad Ashraf, the Director-General Trade Policy at the Ministry of Commerce, tells Dawn from Islamabad. “This is exactly the situation at this moment.”

He said the ministry has not received any recommendation from the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to allow importers some time to clear the consignments that have already arrived or are on their way to reach Karachi port. “No, we have not received any such request from any quarter. I do not think the ministry will give any such concessions.”

But, the DGTP clarified, if an importer had valid LC (letter of credit) opened before Feb 19 — the day the SRO mandating stringent labeling requirements on all imported food products went into effect, that assignment will be cleared.

“If an importer produces the required evidence his shipment will be cleared whenever it arrives at the port,” he added. “The order applies to every importer — large or big and MNCs.”

The statutory regulatory order (SRO) issued on Feb 19 by the ministry required importers to ensure that the “labelling should not be in the form of a sticker, overprinting, stamp or scratched labelling,” and their shipments be accompanied by a Halal certificate. In addition, no product with less than 66 per cent of shelf life from its date of manufacturing would be allowed to enter the country, according to the amended IPO.

At present 40 consignments of food products in consumer packaging are lying uncleared at the Karachi Port and the Port Qasim even though some importers, including multinationals like Unilever and Nestle, have filed Goods Declaration. Chief Collector Customs Suraiya Ahmed Butt has requested the FBR member (customs-operations) to take up the issue with the ministry of commerce in view of “genuine hardship” faced by the importers and to ensure “due collection of (tax) revenue”.

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2019