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National Security operatives yesterday impounded a truckload of smuggled gallons of vegetable cooking oil from Togo into the country by land.
The truck, with registration number AC 8143-23 and the inscription King of Kings, had the gallons of oil concealed in a black polythene and covered with bags of rice.
A woman, said to be the owner of the items, was subsequently arrested by the security operatives.
The smuggling of the oil into the country is a violation of the ban on the importation of vegetable oil by land.
In a circular dated October 9, 2023, the Office of the Commissioner of the Customs Division of GRA, reminded all Commanders of the policy to regulate the palm oil sector.
It directed the commanders to restrict the importation of refined vegetable oil to the sea port (Tema and Takoradi) and discontinue the implementation of the ECOWAS ETLS concessions on reformed oil imported from Togo.
“All deputy commissioners and sector commanders are to ensure strict compliance with this directive,” the circular stressed.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Tree Crops Development Authority (TCDA), William Agyapong Quaittoo, who dashed to see the items and the suspect in Accra yesterday, told the media that following the ban, a circular was issued by the Ministry of Finance through the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA).
The GRA, he said, also sent circulars to all commanders indicating that the “government had placed a ban on the importation of vegetable oil by land”.
“Importation of vegetable oil should all go through the ports, either through the Tema Port or the Takoradi Port.
This is because investigations have proved that most of the people who import the vegetable oils into the country avoid paying the required taxes,” he said.
Mr Quaittoo explained that research had shown that about $4.5 million was lost in revenue per month by those who engaged in the importation of vegetable oil.
Such illegality, he added, was also killing the businesses of vegetable oil manufacturers in the country.
The CEO of the Tree Crops Development Authority, whose office supervises oil palm used in the production of such vegetable oil, said the local manufacturers had GRA officers sitting in their manufacturing centres, so whatever they produced was seen by the officers for the required tax to be paid on them.
“Meanwhile, those who import these vegetable oil into the country avoid paying the taxes.
They smuggle the oils into the country and are able to sell at a very cheap price at the detriment of those who produce in the country.
“When this happens, it affects the value chain down to the oil palm producers, the service providers and the transporters because they are unable to sell their goods,” he said.
Mr Quaittoo said the impounded product, named AICHA, was one of products that was usually imported from Togo and that it was affecting the local palm oil industry.
Following that, he added that the TCDA made a case to the President and the Economic Management Team based on which “Cabinet approved the ban of vegetable oils into the country by land”.
“So all those who have to import oil into the country must go through the port, where they will be seen by the GRA and other officers so that they can pay the appropriate taxes,” Mr Quaittoo added.
Again, Mr Quaittoo said people who imported from Togo were using a facility called ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) as an alibi.
“Togo is a country that is not qualified for that concession and so all those that import vegetable oil from there, with AICHA being one of them, and coming through the ETLS concession are engaged in wrong doing”.
“And that is why we are saying that everybody that would import oil, whether from Cote d’Ivoire, Togo or wherever, must go through the ports.
“This is a clear case of somebody who has smuggled vegetable oil from Togo and has covered it with this rice,” Mr Quaittoo said.
The CEO of TCDA said the authority’s research had shown that about 7,000 tonnes of the vegetable oil were imported into the country through illegal means per month.
The tax calculated, he added, was $4.5 million per month.
Mr Quaittoo said the owner of the products had no documents covering them and so did not know the quantity of the gallons of oil until after investigations.
He said before the implementation of the ban on importing oil by land, enough notices were served, with the deadline being October 18, this year.