MRA says truck with smuggled cooking oil was under escort

Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) has stressed that it is vigilant against all form of smuggling, including that of cooking oil.

This follows a development that took place on Tuesday when a truck with Mozambican registration number was involved in an accident on Friday near Magalasi on the road to Chileka in Blantyre and as the owners were transferring its goods to another truck on Monday, it was exposed to have been carrying cooking oil from Mozambique.

Sources told Nyasa Times on Tuesday alleging that the cooking oil was being smuggled to Mwanza border from Muluzi border in Mulanje.

A source, who shared pictures of the truck and its contents in 20litre containers, had alleged that the goods on the truck was originally covered with a tarpaulin and as it was being transferred to the relief truck, they thought it was smuggling cooking oil.

When alerted of the development on Tuesday, MRA Head of Corporate Affairs, Steven Kapoloma responded that his office would rush to the scene to investigate and responded on Wednesday that indeed the truck was in transit from Mulanje border to Mwanza border but was under MRA escort.

Kapoloma said they are taking the issue of smuggled cooking oil very seriously and when the said truck declared it was carrying the hot commodity, an officer was assigned to escort it all the way to Mwanza border to exit into Mozambique.

“The truck declared at Muloza border that it was delivering the cooking back into Mozambique through Mwanza border but as a precautionary measure, an officer was assigned to travel with it in transit to Mwanza.

“When the accident happened, MRA made sure Malawi Police officers were assigned to guard it, whose security expenses was to be paid by the owners of the truck.

“The police were there when it was being offloaded to the relief truck that was brought to the scene and again an MRA officer accompanied it up to Lirangwe where it was detained in order for the owners to pay for the security expenses incurred at the accident scene.

“From there it was to be escorted further to Mwanza to make sure it exited the border without offloading in Malawi.”

Kapoloma stressed that MRA is vigilant on reports of cooking oil smuggling just as he reiterated last month at a press conference that MRA and Consumer Association of Malawi (CAMA) held to disagree with Malawian cooking oil manufacturers’ that VAT or even smuggled oil should be attributed increase in prices of cooking oil.

He had said at the press conference that their fight against smuggling of any commodity is their top priority and that they have dedicated patrol units that are plying along the borders of Mozambique operating from Muloza in Mulanje.

He also said since they intensified the patrols, they have intercepted lots of smugglers and confiscated many tonnes of cooking oil and would maintain their vigilance to protect the Malawian economic industries.

Cooking oil has been under close scrutiny of late following the commodity’s rise in its price that has been attributed to its reintroduction of 16.5% valued added tax (VAT) as well as through smuggling.

Malawian manufacturers contend that Mozambicans have an advantage in that most of their factories are in Beira — the source where crude oil lands and from where Malawians transport it to their bases.

Because of that transportation cost, coupled with the global price of crude oil and the reintroduction of 16.5% VAT — Malawi’s market price went up thus low encouraged smugglers to be exporting the cheaper oil from Mozambique.

They contend that they had to increase the price of the commodity when the global prices for the crude oil they import went up and keeps fluctuating and that this is the same trend in Mozambique, whose prices were the same as with that in Malawi but with the introduction of VAT it means the prices had to go further up.

However, the Malawian manufacturers were competing with the smuggled commodity that is sold in 20litre buckets prompting CAMA Executive Director John Kapito to disclose that according to the law under Malawi Bureau of Standards, the manufacturers are not supposed to sale at wholesale in 20ltr buckets.

Kapito disclosed to Nyasa Times on Tuesday that the Malawi authorities will be confiscating any product whether locally or smuggled, that would be found in 20ltr buckets being sold on retail, which is called decanting.

“Decanting is not allowed by law on health and sanitation grounds and if the manufacturers are found distributing such cooking oil in bulk as they claim, then what they are doing is against the law.

“The manufacturers can only supply in bulk to hospitality industry — hotels and restaurants and not to retail sellers and once found the law will take its course,” Kapito said.

The truck and it contents of smuggled oil at Magalasi

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