The Crushers and Edible Oil Refiners Association (CEDORA) has accused PF Youth Chairman Kelvin Sampa of using his political influence to illegally obtain import permits for refined edible oils.
CEDORA Chairperson Aubrey Chibumba claimed that Mr Sampa has been using his office as PF Youth Chairman to force the Ministry of Agriculture to issue him with import permits for refined edible oils.
But Mr Sampa has denied the allegations that he is bulldozing the process saying the edible oil sector is free for anyone to participate.
During a news briefing in Lusaka, Dr Chibumba said Mr Sampa has formed an entity called Pamodzi Multipurpose Cooperative which he is trying to use to illegally bring in edible oils into Zambia.
He charged that Mr Sampa is trying to use political advantage to import a product that he cannot even pack even if he brought in bulk.
He warned that such maneuvers by Mr Sampa risks jeopardizing the livelihoods of 300,000 small scale farmers that actively grow soya beans.
“Historically, I smuggled edible oil has been the major challenge for the industry. However, we are glad to report that especially over the last 6 months the Zambia Revenue Authority has made tremendous progress in curbing smuggling,” Dr Chibumba said.
He added, “Working together with CEDORA and Ministry of Agriculture, measures have been put in place that have made it difficult for smugglers to get their products through our borders. ZRA has to be commended for this effort. ZRA has also developed an on-line portal for the application for import permits. This is currently under user acceptance testing at Ministry of Agriculture. When the system goes live it will simplify the permit application process and make it more transparent.”
Dr Chibumba said the Ministry of Agriculture has also tried its best to address challenges with the issuance of import permits for edible oil.
“They too need to be commended because it has not been easy especially given the type of political pressure that they come under. And it is this increasing political pressure that we must now address,” he said.
Dr Chibumba said the Association has no problem with the Pamodzi Multipurpose Cooperative which Mr Sampa has formed.
“Whilst we have no issues with this, we do have issues with how he is trying to use his cooperative. To reiterate, a few months ago, some individuals from Pamodzi called claiming that they have a processing plant and want to import crude palm oil.”
“As agreed between the Ministry of Agriculture and CEDORA we advised them that we have no objection if we can verify that they indeed have a processing plant. The caller said they would get back to me and when they did they said they were only a 20% shareholder. To which I responded that that was fine but we still needed to verify their plant. At that point communication ceased.”
He stated, “The next development was Ministry of Agriculture asking if any of our members had signed a toll agreement with Pamodzi. I replied that I did not know but would find out. I proceeded to ask CEDORA members who all denied entering into such a tolling arrangement with Pamodzi. I duly informed the Ministry of Agriculture and advised them that they should insist on Pamodzi producing a tolling agreement before they can be allowed to import crude palm oil and that in any case it would be better for the tolling company to import on their behalf.”
“The next thing was that Mr. Sampa called me and we exchanged words. But basically what I told him was that he has the political power to do whatever he wants, but that he must not hide behind a process that legitimizes his objective which is to import refined oil and thus avoid paying the correct duties and put at risk the livelihoods of 300,000 small scale farmers that actively grow soya beans.”
“The fact is that Mr. Sampa has been engaged by an individual who has been very active, but in the background, in the edible oil business facilitating mis and under declarations through the various clearing agents that he set up. However, with the new processes in place and the clamp down by ZRA on clearing agents that facilitate smuggling, this avenue has now also closed. So the remaining path was to try to hijack the issuance of import permits using Pamodzi and presumably the office of the Patriotic Front Youth Chairman as leverage on government officials.”
Dr. Chibumba said despite the advice tendered to Mr. Sampa, he has continued to put pressure on the Ministry of Agriculture so that he obtains import permits for a product that he cannot even pack even if he brought in bulk refined oil.
“To me this represents a clear abuse of his office as PF Youth Chairman because he should know better that most youth survive through agriculture and his intended activity in this sector will deprive a lot of them of the opportunity that is available as small scale farmers,” Dr. Chibumba charged.
“My appeal now is to His Excellency, The President Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu who has honored several of our members by commissioning their soya bean processing plants to advise Mr. Sampa to reconsider his current attempts to enter the edible oil sector in the proposed manner. There are much better ways available to help the youth than to destroy one of the more important drivers of our economy.”
When reached for a comment, Mr Sampa denied the allegations adding that Pamodzi Multipurpose Cooperative applied for import permit last October and has not been issued with any.
“The truth is that we have not imported any edible oils. We applied in October and we have so far not been responded to. If at all I am using my office to bulldoze the process, why has the Ministry not given us with the permit?”
He accused Dr Chibumba of working to protect the interest of foreign owned businesses working in the lucrative edible oil sector.
“Why is it that this Association is only full of Indians? Why are they blocking other business people from participating in this business? We are a law abiding entity and for me, I am a law marker and I follow the law. We have not exerted any pressure on this issue,” Mr Sampa said.