Amid the ongoing border dispute between India and China, import consignments from the neighbouring country at ports such as Chennai and Mumbai are learnt to be facing hurdles, with clearances being held up by the Indian Customs authorities. The disruption in clearances is reported to have emerged over the last fortnight, even as there are no written or verbal instructions from the customs authorities or the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC), three persons aware of the development said.
It is understood that the Customs authorities have hinted at delays without citing any specific reason to the importers. A Chennai-based importer said the Customs officials have advised not to deliver any container that has arrived from China, even if Out of Charge (OOC) order for clearance has been issued.
Customs clearance involves several procedures and in case no discrepancy is found in the consignment after examination, then ‘Out of Charge’ order is issued for the clearance of the goods from the custom area. A Mumbai-based industry source said that clearances are being skipped for Chinese consignments, especially non-essential goods. “Certain categories of goods from China are taking more time to get cleared since customs authorities are not immediately checking those containers. They have categorised goods as essentials and non-essentials and the containers with non-essentials have been pushed into the background for examination at a later day. So they are not saying that we won’t examine but not giving it importance as imported items from other countries,” the person said.
Since the consumption pattern won’t change immediately, the delay in clearances especially for non-essential goods such as toys, electrical equipment are being seen as a nudge for importers to change their import pattern from China. “There is nothing direct about the instructions from customs authorities. But the implicit message for importers is that importing non-essentials will take longer for clearances. It has taken some days for the importers to realise the reasons for the held up consignments. With the delays in Customs clearances, the demurrage charges will go up, and is likely to offset the gains from the imports from China for such importers, thus, disincentivising them,” the source said.
A senior official in the Chennai Customs zone said Customs authorities examine certain types of cargo based on intelligence inputs as part of routine inspection and some of the import consignments under question are from China. Queries e-mailed to the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) and Ministry of Finance on this issue went unanswered till press time.
Possible curbs on imports from China in the form of tariff or non-tariff barriers are being discussed with the government said to be considering a list of imported items for the various restrictive measures. China accounts for around 14 per cent of India’s total imports.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines