Staff Reporter :
The Bangladesh Fresh Fruits Importers Association (BFFIA) has voiced concerns over the discrepancy between the customs-assessed values of dates and their actual international market prices, leading to an unreasonable increase in tariffs.
This misalignment has caused a sharp rise in the prices of dates at both wholesale and retail levels, making them unaffordable for low-income consumers, according to the association.
The BFFIA warns that without adjustments to reflect the real market prices, the cost of dates will continue to escalate, affecting consumers, traders, and the market’s overall stability. During a press conference held at the National Press Club on Monday, BFFIA President Sirajul Islam called for customs to realign the assessed values with the genuine market rates.
Islam highlighted a significant discrepancy, noting that dates imported from Iraq, which cost $800-900 per carton, have been assessed at $2,500 by customs, nearly tripling the actual price. This discrepancy leads to a steep increase in duties and, consequently, a doubling of market prices, he explained.
With the demand for dates peaking during Ramadan at 50,000-60,000 tonnes, traders typically stock up in advance. This year, around 10,000 tonnes have already been imported, with 400-500 containers pending customs clearance. However, due to the inflated assessed values, over 15,000 tonnes of dates are stranded, causing reluctance among traders to release their stocks or import further, Islam detailed.
He urged customs authorities to adjust the assessed values based on a careful observation of international market prices and consultations with importers, aiming to make imported fruits, especially dates during Ramadan, affordable for everyone.
Despite a reduction in import duty from 25 percent to 15 percent by the National Board of Revenue, importers claim that the overall cost has not been significantly affected. The current situation has led to market instability, further aggravated by a backlog of imported dates awaiting customs clearance.
Prices of dates have surged in the wholesale market, with varieties previously sold at Tk90-110 per kilogram last year now going for Tk140-150. Prices for other ranges have similarly doubled or more, significantly impacting affordability for consumers.
The BFFIA is pressing the customs department for an urgent resolution to this issue, emphasizing the need for fair pricing and accessibility of dates, particularly during the high-demand period of Ramadan.