Parliament committee on East Africa affairs yesterday heard that Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) restricted importation of sugar to protect local industries.
“We are trying to improve efficiency. There are products which have been gazetted not to be warehoused like sugar. It is a government policy. We have so many sugar companies which have been set up here. It is not sustainable for us as a country to import sugar all the way from Thailand to warehouse it here. It kills our sugar sector.
“The measures are economic. You can import the sugar but there is high duty. What we are not going to allow is for you to go and store sugar in Gulu next to Amuru Sugar Factory that employees thousands of people and before you know it, our factory has collapsed like you have seen in other countries,” the URA commissioner of Customs, Mr Dickson Kateshumbwa, told the media at Parliament yesterday.
He said anybody importing sugar must pay high duty taxes to discourage them and instead use the locally manufactured. Mr Kateshumbwa also said URA has introduced some measures for warehouses not to store restricted imports and warned that non-complying warehouses would risk losing their operating licences.
Earlier, while appearing before the Parliament’s committee on East African Affairs, Mr Kateshumbwa told MPs that traders had rejected some measures introduced to regulate warehouses and bonds to safeguard traders’ businesses.
He said they received resistance from traders after URA introduced key performance indicators for warehouses and bonds to follow.
“We will meet the traders tomorrow [today] to help them understand that their profits are going into other people’s pockets. Some warehouses and bonds create delays and traders spend more because every day their containers stay in the warehouse, it is $100 (Shs370, 000),” Mr Kateshumbwa told the committee chaired by Bukooli Island County MP George Abbot Ouma.
He further informed the committee that Uganda is exporting about 250 containers of tiles to Kenya every month. However, he noted that there is need to improve the road network to borders as they are narrow and create traffic congestion on those routes.
“The roads leading to our borders are very narrow. While we have expanded the Malaba border post, the road has remained the same. As you approach the border, you have a lot of traffic. The roads can no longer support the traffic at the border. We have 1,800 trucks every day coming in and another 800 going out. We are trying to talk to government to improve infrastructure as you approach the border so that you don’t have empty trucks mixed with petrol trucks. We hope something will be done,” Mr Kateshumbwa added.
According to Mr Kateshumbwa, URA made about 7,800 interceptions of smuggled goods last year and recovered about Shs50 billion in taxes.