The Financial Express

Rules drafted to ensure release of perishable goods in 48 hours

| Updated: May 12, 2021 10:57:02

A view of Chittagong Port is seen in this undated file photo A view of Chittagong Port is seen in this undated file photo

The revenue board has drafted rules keeping a provision to ensure the release of perishable goods within 48 hours of submission of bill of entry or export completing all customs procedures.

The customs wing of the National Board of Revenue (NBR) framed the draft of 'Perishable Goods Speedy Release and Disposal Regulations-2021' to ease the release of such goods within shortest possible time.

The board has sent the draft rules to all stakeholders, including Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI), Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI), Federation of Bangladesh Customs Clearing and Forwarding Agents Association, Port authorities across the country, and managing director of Biman Bangladesh.

Officials said the draft would be finalised accommodating the opinions from all the parties concerned on the regulation.

The customs audit, modernisation and international trade wing also held a virtual meeting with the stakeholders last month on the draft rules.

The meeting, headed by customs member Khondaker Muhammad Aminur Rahman, decided to incorporate two new provisions in the draft as per opinions of the stakeholders.

A provision for providing assessment certificates within the day of examination will be included in the rules, officials said.

The assessment of perishable goods will be conducted on the basis of second-appraisement, they added.

The draft policy has been prepared on the basis of a series of discussions with the field-level customs officials.

Currently, there is no rule for speedy clearance of perishable goods, but customs usually try faster release of those goods under their own best practices.

The NBR framed the draft rules as per condition of the Trade Facilitation Agreement of the World Trade Organisation to facilitate ease of doing business.

As per WTO-TFA, customs authorities should ensure fast-track clearance of perishable goods.

In the draft, the NBR has incorporated 64 perishable goods- including edible oil, fertiliser, raw tobacco, raw hide, all types of seeds including potato, salt, milk and milk products, fish, fruit, live animals, medicine, raw materials for medicine, pulse, sugar, frozen fish and meat, chocolate, biscuit, tea, onion, garlic, ginger and other spices, food items with six-month validity, cosmetics with six-month validity and other goods with risks of faster quality fall etc - to be considered for faster clearance.

In the meeting with the customs wing, the C&F agents proposed considering the differences between net weight and gross weight of such goods and following the 'Customs Valuation Rules-2000' while framing the regulation, as per the meeting minutes.

They demanded a separate scanning machine for perishable goods in the import cargo complex of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, according to the meeting minutes.

The C&F agents of Dhaka also alleged that Bangladesh Biman was charging cold storage fees for all perishable goods despite not having the facility for all products.

Chittagong Customs C&F association proposed that the customs accept certificates issued from country of origin as per BDS (Bangladesh Standard) of BSTI.

A representative of Mongla port authority suggested expediting the release of exportable goods, which have been sent back for some reason, by the exporters.

MCCI representatives recommended establishing separate desk for the release of perishable goods, arranging more cold storages, introducing single window facility, and preparing the rules in consultation with the stakeholders.

As per the draft rules, customs will be able to sell or transfer the seized and unreleased perishable goods, which could not be disposed of through auction due to various reasons, to the state-owned agencies such as Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) at minimum prices.

Customs officials will complete all procedures, including customs assessment and examination to release the import and export goods, within 48 hours of submission of bill of entry if taxes and duties are cleared.

There will also be a specific desk or group of officials at customs houses to handle the perishable goods.

Goods seized for violation of import and export policies and for other reasons such as import of prohibited or restricted goods, and unreleased goods will be cleared through auction.

Customs authorities will be able to sell the seized and unreleased goods, such as sugar and salt, to the government agencies like TCB after determining minimum prices for the goods without arranging auction.

As per the draft rules, importers, exporters or C&F agents will have to inform the certification authority such as BSTI, atomic energy or quarantine authorities along with customs authority prior to import or export of perishable goods.

Customs would not release those perishable goods that are supposed to furnish the documents, without certificate.

Importers will be able to submit bills of entry or bills of export anytime within 48 hours for perishable goods, irrespective of day or night.

However, customs will not follow the 48-hour timeline for release of perishable goods in case of having instructions of customs intelligence, risk management or if the products selected for physical inspection on random basis.

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