Rice Tops the List: URA Collaborates with Government Agencies to Tackle Cross-Border Smuggling

uras new rice import verification system
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The Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), in a concerted effort to combat cross-border crime has initiated a collaborative approach with various government agencies. Recent actions by URA’s border and enforcement personnel have revealed an upswing in smuggling activities across the eastern, western, and southern routes.

Smuggling Incidents in Eastern Uganda

Vehicle License Plate Seized Items
Toyota Wish UBK101R Uncustomized Rice
Minibus (Taxi) UAW376M Uncustomized Rice
Toyota Nadia UAX491M Uncustomized Rice
Toyota Corona UAK643T Uncustomized Rice
Customized Cement Truck UBK422R Uncustomized Rice


During the past week, rice emerged as the most frequently smuggled item in the eastern region, with six vehicles impounded. The intercepted vehicles, including a cement truck with concealed rice, were found carrying a total of 10 tons of smuggled rice. The seized rice brands included Sana, Muhamood, Baraf, and Hilal.

URA officials utilized intelligence from informants to uncover smuggling attempts, such as a cement truck falsely claiming to transport oranges but actually carrying 26 bags of rice. Another vehicle, a FUSO truck, was found with 260 bags of re-bagged rice from Pakistan. Notably, rice produced within the East African Community (EAC) incurs zero percent import tax, while that from other regions faces a 75 percent tax under the Common External Tariff regime of the EAC.

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 Recent Smuggling Incidents

Date Location Seized Items
Thursday (last week) Jinja Pakistan-Re-bagged Rice
(520 bags, 25 kg each)
Thursday (same period) Jinja Contraband Laptops, Electronics,
Medicines, Lucky Grain Sugar
Unknown date Jinja Smuggled Goods (Rice, Engine Oil,
Ling Long Tyres)
Unknown date Fort Portal Smuggled Cosmetics from DRC
(85 cartons)

In response to the surge in smuggling activities, URA has acquired a testing machine from the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) to verify the origin of imported rice. Additionally, a recent Memorandum of Understanding signed in Kampala aims to strengthen collaboration among government agencies, forming a multi-agency working group to address economic crime challenges, including tax evasion, money laundering, illicit financial flows, and cyber threats.

URA’s intensified efforts have also revealed incidents beyond smuggling rice. In Jinja, a van transporting contraband laptops and various items switched vehicles to evade surveillance. Although the smugglers fled, leaving the loaded Toyota Super Custom (registration UBC149B), the intercepted items, including laptops, a drone, desktop computers, phones, medicines, and sugar, remain unclaimed.

Diverse Smuggling Incidents

Date Location Seized Items
Mutukula (unspecified) Mutukula Smuggled Goods (not specified)
Unknown date Fort Portal Smuggled Cosmetics from DRC
(85 cartons)


While URA’s enforcement operations have successfully intercepted repetitive offenders attempting to smuggle goods from Tanzania, challenges persist. Smugglers use tactics such as consolidation stores to hide their illegal activities, as witnessed in the Mutukula region. Moses Ankunda, a Customs Officer, highlighted the recovery of items such as Santa Lucia spaghetti, Afro care petroleum jelly, Azam wheat flour, and contraband cosmetics.

Godson Mwesigye, the Manager of Enforcement Operations, emphasized the economic impact of smuggling, stressing that it hampers Uganda’s revenue collection and undermines government efforts to provide essential services. The collaborative approach involves multiple government agencies, including the Financial Intelligence Authority, the State House Anti-Corruption Unit, the Bank of Uganda, and others.

URA’s call to action extends beyond curbing smuggling; it urges the public to refrain from importing or consuming prohibited products, particularly harmful cosmetics. Despite a ban on the importation of mercury and hydroquinone-containing body products, smugglers continue to exploit loopholes and declare such products as destined for neighboring countries where they are not prohibited.

Ibrahim Bbossa, the URA Spokesperson, emphasized that addressing illicit trade is crucial for public health and revenue mobilization. The East African Community Customs Management Act prescribes penalties for offenders, including fines and imprisonment. Continuous efforts are essential to safeguard both the health of Ugandans and the nation’s economic well-being.

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