June 24: The fate of 500 containers being held at the Birjung Dry Port for the last 30 days is increasingly becoming uncertain as the customs authority has become confused over the clearance of the goods. The containers are said to have items including garden peas, dates, pepper and beetle nuts, which were imported after the government announced ban on import of dry fruits and some food items on fears that the Covid-19 pandemic will hit the country’s foreign currency reserve. The clearance of the consignments was denied after it was found that the importers have not taken approval from Food Technology and Quality Control Department (FTQCD).
According to Shishir Ghimire, director of Department of Customs (DoC), no decision has been taken yet regarding the consignments. “We are not able to decide as this issue is related to FTQCD and Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies (MoICS). We are not sure either to confiscate or destroy the goods,” said Ghimire.
Meanwhile, FTQCD officials say that their duty is limited to providing permits to the importers after determining quality of the goods. “It is responsibility of the DoC and MoICS to decide on the goods if the importers have not taken permission,” mentioned Mohan Krishna Maharjan, spokesperson of FTQCD. According to him, the department has not issued permit after March 29 to import any goods that has been banned by the government.
According to the FCQTD, the validity period of a permit is six months. The goods stuck at the dry port were imported based on the permission obtained before six months, said Umesh Shrestha, chief customs administrator.
A few days ago, the office had seized a container of carrying beetle nuts. According to a Birgunj-based importer, exporters of the goods have increased inquiry about payment of the goods after the dry port authority denied clearance of the containers. “Additional 500-700 containers are stuck at the Indian ports. As the clearance processes are not taking place, we are confused about bringing more containers here,” he said.
According to DoC officials, the role of banks also looks doubtful ragarding the transactions of the consignment imported under Documents Against Payment (DAP) system. A DoC official said that though import permit is mandatory under DAP, the bank went ahead with the process without official papers.