Customs Chief Accuses Critics of Bias, Vows to Address Steel Imports

May 4 , 2024

  Steel manufacturers' struggles and the impact of duty-free imports on domestic production have caught the attention of parliamentarians. During the Customs Commission's presentation of its nine-month performance, an MP directed a question to Commissioner Debele Kabeta, seeking clarification on the measures being taken by his institution to mitigate the influx of imports that are negatively affecting local manufacturers. While the source remains elusive, over 56 million Br worth of contraband steel was confiscated by the Commission. Debele acknowledged the issues faced by domestic producers. He said they have conducted a thorough review of the situation along with manufacturers. However, he cautioned that there may be "vested interests" presenting a one-sided narrative. According to a study commissioned by the Association of Ethiopian Basic Metals & Engineering Industries, the steel industry is on the verge of collapse due to policies heavily favouring importers. A study done by Ruhe Long & Flat Products Consultancy Plc found that manufacturers are crippled by a lack of raw materials, limited to a fraction of their 1.5 million tons monthly needs, while importers enjoy duty-free privileges. Customer service concerns at the Airport Branch were also addressed by parliamentarians. Debele raised concerns about unsubstantiated claims potentially being spread by those with "vested interests" aiming to undermine trust in the institution. "When scratching the surface," said Debele, "such claims may reveal ties to contraband activities."


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