The interim government’s ban on nonessential imports for three months following Covid 19 crisis has brought thousands of importers, small and medium scale enterprises to severe difficulties, Colombo Importers Association said.
Further the hurried decision taken to restrict non essential imports with effect from April 2 and guidelines issued without clarity on the prohibition of more imports until July 2020 has also created shortage of essential food items initially.
Under this set up the care taker Government has lifted its import restrictions on several products aand commodities whle retaining the ban on vehicle imports, as part of its COVID-19 economic revival plan.
The temporary ban on the importation of non essential commodities was imposed amidst a foreign exchange crisis in April.
It was relaxed last month as the government permitted the imports of raw materials with prior approval.
“No prior approval is required as the temporary suspension is no longer applied,” President’s Secretary P.B. Jayasundera said in a letter to the director-general of the customs department.
Local import substitution industries such as cement and steel have been urged to meet the demand of massive investment projects such as the Port City and the Hambantota Economic Zone.
imports of agricultural produce would be restricted except for those items which are subjected to Special Commodity Levy, the letter revealed.
Agricultural products that are applicable to the levy would be those not produced in Sri Lanka such as kiwi and apples but are considered important for locals and high-end tourists.
The import of palm oil will also be restricted, while raw materials for the manufacture of cement, steel, plastic and ceramics would be subjected to standard duty.
“Import of raw materials for local manufacturing activities to be permitted provided domestic value addition is at least 30 percent,” the letter stressed.
It added that rubber manufacturing companies will be permitted to import latex and raw rubber provided they purchased 50 percent or more of local supply, to encourage local rubber cultivation.
According to the economic revival plan, the special commodity levy will be maintained at high levels on sugar and sugar substitutes, milk powder, and canned fish to encourage local production.
“Import of motor vehicles, including motorcycles and three-wheelers to be suspended other than agricultural, services and construction-related vehicles,” the guidelines read.
The import of items for the telecommunication industry has been allowed subject to the applicable taxes.