NBR to hike sugar import duty if govt high-ups ask

Staff Correspondent | Updated at 12:12am on September 18, 2018

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A file photo shows a man taking sugar from a sack for weighing at a shop in the capital, Dhaka. The National Board of Revenue has not given any decision to the industries ministry on raising duty on sugar import saying that the decision should come from government high-ups. — New Age photo

The National Board of Revenue has not given any decision to the industries ministry on raising duty on sugar import saying that the decision should come from government high-ups.
The revenue board, at an inter-ministerial meeting on revision of the existing duty structure held on September 6, cleared its stance saying that the duty would be hiked only if the government policymakers gave a positive signal to the increase.
Bangladesh Sugar and Food Industries Corporation under the industries ministry made the plea, seeking an increase in the import duty to help the corporation clear its unsold stock.
‘The NBR will implement the decision of the government’s high-ups on the issue,’ according to the decision of the meeting where representatives from ministries of industries and commerce, NBR, BSFIC and Bangladesh Tariff commission were present.
BSFIC demanded that NBR set the specific duty to Tk 4,000 a tonne raising it from the existing Tk 2,000 a tonne and impose 25 per cent supplementary duty along with the existing 20 per cent regulatory duty and 15 per cent value-added tax on import of raw sugar.
It also proposed increasing specific duty to Tk 5,000 a tonne from the existing Tk 4,500 a tonne and imposing 25 per cent SD along with 20 per cent RD and 15 per cent VAT on import of white sugar.
The retail price of refined sugar will be Tk 60 a kilogram if the proposals are considered, it said.
BSFIC argued that the new retail price would not create any negative impact on consumers as it would remain consistent with the prices of essential commodities.
Revenue earnings of NBR would also increase to Tk 5,902 crore from the current Tk 2,888 crore from the sector, it said.
It said that some 1.51 lakh tonnes of sugar of state-run 15 sugar mills under BSFIC remained unsold as the price of sugar in the international market dropped significantly in recent times.
Currently, refined sugar produced from imported raw sugar is selling at around Tk 45,000 a tonne in the local market, which is lower than the BSFIC-set price at Tk 50,000 a tonne.
State-run mills cannot sell their sugar as the private refiners are selling the item at much lower price.
It will be difficult for the state-owned mills to survive if the import duty is not increased, it said.
BSFIC chairman AKM Delwar Hossain said that price of refined sugar produced from imported raw sugar stood at Tk 41 a kg due to lower international price and existing duty structure, which was not acceptable.
The government should protect the state-run mills to ensure price stability of the product in the local market, he said.
At the meeting, the commerce ministry expressed its reservation about increasing the duty right now considering the prevailing situation including the national election which is scheduled to be held few months later.
Echoing the commerce ministry view, a first secretary of customs wing of NBR said that the proposal of increasing the duty might be considered to keep the price of the product in the local market consistent with that in the international market.
But, it is not the appropriate time to do so as the national election nears as any duty hike may increase the price of sugar in the local market, which will put negative impact on consumers, he said.
NBR chairman Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan said that if industries minister informed the prime minister about the situation, NBR and industries ministry together might explain the issue to the prime minister.
NBR will take measures to increase the duty if it gets the prime minister’s decision in favour of any hike, he added.