Bans on targeted imports

Tuesday 19 Apr 2022

The government’s decision to ban imports from unregistered producers is meant to encourage local production and decrease demand for the dollar, experts tell Nahla Abul-Ezz

Bans on targeted imports
(photo: Reuters)

Confusion reigned when the news broke that the Ministry of Trade and Industry had decided to halt imports from about 1,000 producers and brands this week, including popular brands like Lipton tea, Al-Marai dairy products, and Persil detergents.

The worries faded, however, when Nevine Gamea, the minister of trade and industry, clarified that the decision concerned the application of a ministerial decree issued in 2016 stipulating that only producers registered with the Organisation for Export and Import Control (OEIC) are qualified to export to Egypt.

The decision is part of government efforts to facilitate procedures in the business community and smooth the movement of imports and exports, she said.

The ban is also temporary, as the OEIC has been removing producers that conform to its registration rules from the banned list, removing 122 of them since the beginning of the year.

Some of the producers have not been included on the list since 2020 as they have built factories in Egypt and thus can cover local demand with locally made products. The decision will stop imports of such brands but will not affect production at local factories.

Gamea stressed that the decision did not target any specific company or product.

Hazem Al-Menoufi, a member of the Food Division at the Egyptian Federation of Chambers of Commerce, downplayed the effects of the decision, explaining that stopping imports of Al-Marai dairy products and Lipton tea would not affect the market because the majority of such products are already manufactured in Egypt. The companies’ imported products are only consumed by five per cent of the population, he said.

He added that companies on the list could file a complaint within 60 days, with the Ministry of Trade and Industry then deciding on whether to remove or keep them on it.

Unilever Mashreq, the producer of Persil detergents as well as Lipton tea, was quick to release a statement saying that it was “business as usual” in the Egyptian market. It said that its Lipton tea brand would continue to be sold as it is locally produced.

Matta Beshai, head of the Internal Trade Committee at the Importers Division of the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce, said the decision not to import from unregistered companies was meant to decrease imports, strengthen local production, and lessen demand for the US dollar.

Some 200 companies have been banned from exporting to Egypt as a result of the decision, substituting 131 commodities with locally produced alternatives, Beshai added.

According to the decree, the producers of 29 categories of goods, including agricultural and food products, cosmetics, toys, textiles, garments, household appliances, furniture, and ceramic tiles, will be obliged to register with the OEIC, allowing it to check their registration.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry has granted producers 90 days to conform to the registration demands and quality standards and to submit quality and brand certificates along with their registration documents, he said.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 21 April, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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