In a recent operation, the customs enforcement team in Jinja has successfully impounded six vehicles transporting uncustomed rice, uncovering a major smuggling operation in the region. The vehicles, including a Toyota Wish, a Taxi, a Toyota Nadia, a Toyota Corona, a FUSO truck, and a cement truck, were seized with a total of 10 tons of smuggled rice.
Philip Ofubo, a customs officer attached to the Jinja office, disclosed that the operation was conducted based on intelligence received from informants about illicit rice entering the country. The intercepted vehicles were found to be carrying 407 bags of rice, concealed with labels from brands such as Sana, Muhamood, Baraf, and Hilal.
During the operation, one of the vehicles, a cement truck, purported to carry oranges, was found to be concealing 26 bags of rice. Another FUSO truck was discovered with 260 bags of re-bagged rice from Pakistan.
Ofubo highlighted that the FUSO truck, transporting 520 bags of rice, was apprehended in an intelligence-led operation on Thursday night as it was en route to Kampala, while the remaining five vehicles were intercepted over the weekend. The smuggled rice was deceptively concealed with 260 bags of local rice on top, hiding 260 bags of Pakistani rice underneath, all packaged in locally branded bags of Kaka rice.
This interception is particularly significant amid recent tensions between the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and rice traders. The URA has accused some traders of importing mixed rice from various countries and falsely declaring it as sourced from within the East African region, aiming to evade taxes.
The East African Community Common External Tariff (EAC-CET) stipulates that rice imported from outside the E.A.C. is subject to a 75% import duty, while rice sourced within the EAC attracts a 0% import duty. To address such issues, URA acquired a testing machine in October, provided by the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), to verify the origin of imported rice.
Offence management procedures are currently underway as authorities work to address the implications of this large-scale rice smuggling operation in the region. The incident highlights the ongoing challenges faced by customs officials in curbing illegal trade activities and enforcing import regulations.