The Chairman of Rice Business Sector Association (RBSU) Isaac Kashaija has on Wednesday trashed accusations being leveled against the Minister of Trade Hon. Amelia Kyambadde for single handedly allowing a firm to import 50,000 Metric Tons of untaxed rice from Tanzania.
It is understood that last week, there was an uproar when news emerged that Gotovate Uganda Limited had been exempted from paying 18% Value Added Tax (VAT) for a period of four months with effect from August 2020, something stakeholders said was ‘crafty’ in nature.
Addressing the press on October 7, 2020, Kashaija defended the minister saying that Gotovate’s request was approved way back in March after meeting a number of upfront pre-requisites and protocols.
“The Trade Ministry does not give exemptions. It only receives the request for a single company, forwards it to the Ministry of Finance. The Ministry of Finance, based on who has applied and the facts therein, is the one that decides to consider the applicant and then informs URA,” Kashaija stated.
He elaborated that the reasons advanced by Gotovate were compelling in a way that they were geared at fending off speculators and fixing the acute food scarcity conundrum caused by the Covid-19 Pandemic.
“It requested the Ministry of Trade and other authorities to allow them to bring in rice which can be sold off to the public at a cheaper price. Because, shortly after the Covid-19 lockdown was effected, people began hiking the prices of food,” Kashaija pointed out.
“Currently, the demand for rice in Uganda stands at 380,000 MT per month with local production of approximately 180,000 MT per season leaving a deficit of about 200,000 MT per month,” he stressed.
Fast forward, Kashaija attributed this unbefitting criticism to Rachael Mbabazi’s Rice Association of Uganda (RAU) whom he said was jealous and afraid of losing her monopoly.
“The Rice Business Sector Association Limited has got information that Ms Rachael Mbabazi, the purported chairman of the Rice Association of Uganda, is one of the beneficiaries of the 14 companies that were exploiting Ugandans,” he retorted.
“And she is not happy that Ugandans are getting relief from the ‘sharks’ and is determined to disorganize the rice industry for her own benefit,” Kashaija concluded.
To amicably solve this row which might suck in East African Community (EAC) member states, Kashaija opined that all stakeholders including rice farmers, millers, traders and Government must sit on a round table.
Since 2014, it is understood that fourteen companies which include SWT Tanners, Imba Foods, Zen Trading Limited, Mabu Commodities, Ssunad and General Agencies among many others have not been subjected to VAT pending conclusion of a court case.
To establish the truth of the matter, the writer called Ian Rumanyika, the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) Public and Corporate Affairs Manager who unfortunately was not in office.
While the Food Agricultural Organization (FAO) statistics indicate that the area under rice cultivation had increased by close to 70,000 hectares in a space of ten years ending 2010, rice imports have been on an upward trajectory.