Importers warn over high cost of goods under new inspection rule

Businesses in import and export are worried by new import rules which they say might increase the cost of some commodities and hurt those dealing in small quantities.

In a notice published in local dailies yesterday, the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) and the Kenya Revenue Authority said all imports must be accompanied by a certificate of conformity starting December 1, 2015.

Inspected goods

The certificate is a document that an importer obtains after goods are inspected and certified to be of required standards, with Kebs relying on agents stationed at the source of the products to do the job.

While some products have been exempted from the requirement in the past, all imports will now be required to be accompanied by the document.

No cargo shall be allowed entry into Kenya without the fulfilment of conformity certificate. Presentation of the certificate shall be mandatory to facilitate clearance of imports by Kebs and the revenue authority the notice stated.

“This requirement has been found necessary in order to protect the safety and health of Kenyans in addition to securing tax revenues (with) key concerns that have arisen in the past including cases of cargo misdeclaration and under-valuation.”

The Shippers Council of Eastern Africa said the government has a good intention of protecting Kenyans against harmful products, but cautioned that the rule would not apply to some sectors of the economy.

“We support Kebs in what it is doing and we believe that the move will address the issue of contraband goods.

“But there are issues with the oil sector because if we factor the cost of inspecting oil products, the prices of these products is likely to rise,” said Mr Gilbert Lang’at, the shippers council executive officer.

READ: Shippers face two-week deadline for new import cargo inspection rule

Small and medium sized firms, who are the largest employers in the country, will also be hard hit given the size of their imports which could make inspection almost impossible in some instances and if done push the cost of imports beyond the reach of customers.

“If, for instance, you factor inspection fees, it means that traders will have to increase the end user prices,” Mr Lang’at said.

Ultimately, the directive could have the unwarranted situation where only the big companies are left in business killing thousands of small businesses.

Some players also raised concern over the capacity of agents appointed by Kebs, saying it would be difficult to appoint representatives in all countries Kenya sources goods.

SGS, Bureau Veristas and Intertek are some of the companies contracted by Kebs to carry out inspections and issue conformity certificates.

“The rule will create a crisis because agents are not located in all countries we import goods from,” said a clearing agent.

But Kebs coast regional manager, Mr Vincent Cheruiyot, assured importers that there is no cause for alarm as Kebs is represented in major source markets, saying the coverage is at over 90 per cent.