The National Board of Revenue will not consider any more reductions in duties and taxes on imports of rice and edible oil in a bid to protect local producers.

NBR chairman Abu Hena Md Rahmatul Muneem said on Monday that any further reduction in the rice import tax would make locally produced rice cheaper due to availability of low-cost imported substitutes of the staple.

Farmers who are losing interest in cultivating rice for not getting fair prices would be further discouraged to grow the commodity, he said.

The NBR’s customs wing on January 7 reduced the rice import duty to 25 per cent from the previous 62.5 per cent to keep the price of the commodity stable in the country.

He said that reduction in the import tax on edible oil would also not be entertained considering its harmful impact on health and the consumers’ increased purchasing capacity while edible oil is used in very small amounts in cooking. 

The NBR should rather protect local producers of vegetable oil seeds.

Everything should not be considered from the import duty context as the NBR is also responsible for protecting domestic production, he added.

He made the comments at a press briefing replying to a question on whether the tax authorities had any plans to reduce the duties on import of rice and edible oil amid the soaring prices of the two essential products on both the local and international markets.

The revenue board arranged the briefing on the occasion of International Customs Day to be observed in the country today.

Muneem said that revenue collection in the first six months (July-December) of the current fiscal year 2020-2021 grew by 4.10 per cent despite the slowdown in economic activities amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Tax officials managed to collect Tk 1,10,434 crore in the first half of FY21, Tk 30,791 crore less than the collection target of Tk 1,41,225 crore set for the period, he said. Replying to a question, Muneem said that they had taken various measures, including making of submission of the bill of entry mandatory within 72 hours on arrival of goods, to expedite delivery of imported goods from the port.

However, quick delivery of goods does not only depend on the customs authorities as there are many other entities involved in this process, he said.

A portion of traders such as car importers prolong the acceptance of their goods from the port and use the port as a storage facility as keeping the imported car at the port is less expensive than at showrooms or warehouses, he blamed. He, however, said that the clearance process would be expedited once the National Single Window project was implemented.

NBR member (customs policy) Syed Golam Kibria said that around 60 per cent of the imported goods could be delivered within a day from the port by the customs authorities if certification by other departments were not required.

Around 70 per cent of the consignments are released in two days, he said.

NBR member (customs audit, modernisation and international trade) Khondaker Muhammad Aminur Rahman said that the traders or their agents submitted around 40 per cent of the bills of entry on the tenth day of arrival of the goods. It is also a major reason for the delay.

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