Council: Lift rice transhipment ban

KOTA KINABALU: BIMP-EAGA Business Council Sabah is urging the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry to consider tightening enforcement instead of stopping transhipment activities of rice at all ports in the country.

Council chairman Datuk Roselan Johar Mohamed said stopping transhipment activities was just an “easy way out” to resolve problems, especially smuggling activities.

“I am hoping that the ministry will reconsider.

“The move negates our efforts and initiatives to promote trade and investment,” he said in a statement.

Roselan was commenting on the ministry’s directive to the Transport Ministry and Customs Department late last month to ban all transhipment activities of rice at all ports, including Sabah and Labuan.

He said there were two directives issued about a year ago to curb smuggling activities – to increase the bank guarantee quantum for vehicles going out to Sabah from Labuan and the decision to create a much smaller cluster of duty free shops in Labuan.

He claimed that the latest decision, which was made without consulting the local businesses and communities, would affect the economy.

“Port operators will see losses in business, unemployment rate will increase with jobs taken away and cost of living will rise,” he said.

He claimed that policies, including the move that curbed sales of duty-free alcohol and tobacco products in 2016, have led to Labuan’s population falling to 90,000 from 130,000.