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Used car importers to pay Sh5,000 Kephis spraying fee

Second hand car imports await clearance at the Mombasa port. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Second hand car imports await clearance at the Mombasa port. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Importers of used motor vehicles could soon start paying a Sh5,000 inspection fee as part of the renewed effort to prevent importation of foreign pests.

The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) says in a draft legal notice that importers of second-hand cars, motorcycles and tractors will be required to pay the fee before they are allowed to enter the Kenyan market.

“Our objective is to prevent entry of pests. This is part of a new international standard on pest control,” Kephis managing director Esther Kimani said.

Ms Kimani reckons that used motor vehicles are part of the means through which new pests are introduced in the country and needed to be properly managed. Used car dealers have opposed the fee, describing it as exorbitant.

“The proposed fumigation fee is just but a conduit to get money from motor vehicle importers and is not meant for anything else,” said Charles Munyori, the secretary-general of Kenya Auto Bazaar Association.

“The question Kephis should answer is what has suddenly happened to warrant this fee.  We have been importing vehicles from the 1980s without causing any harm to plant health. What has changed?”

Mr Munyori said the proposed fee of Sh5,000 per vehicle will translate to Sh35 million per month and close to Sh500  million per year for the agency.

The amount, he said, is what international pre-shipment inspection firms charge a ship carrying cargo of more than 10,000 tonnes.

Dr Kimani said the amount was arrived at because of “the work involved” but added that it was still subject to discussion with stakeholders before gazettement.

Kephis is expected to accredit companies that will inspect the cars. Vehicles from markets that pre-fumigate cars before export will be exempt from the inspections, Dr Kimani said.

Used car dealers are expected to fight for a reduction of the fee using Kephis’ own rates for other similar inspections to argue their case, with larger vessels and containers charged less.

A ship carrying less than 10,000 tonnes, for instance, pays an inspection fee of Sh1,000 while importers pay Sh1,000 for each 40-foot container and Sh500 for each 20-foot container.

A large aircraft attracts an inspection fee of Sh3,000 while small aircraft and balloons are charged Sh1,500 each.

Inspecting a car or truck takes less time and stakeholders are set to challenge the logic of the higher fee on vehicles.

“A closer look at the proposed fee structure shows that a whole ship will pay Sh5,000, the same as a car. Does this make sense?” posed Mr Munyori. “This government agency should restrict itself to its core mandate and not result to introducing unnecessary fees as a way of generating revenue.”

Introduction of the Kephis fee on used motor vehicles is the latest in a growing list of port levies that have made imports increasingly expensive.

The government introduced the railway development levy in 2013 at a rate of 1.5 per cent of the import’s value.

If the proposed fee is unchanged, it could raise hundreds of millions of shillings each year. Annual motor vehicle imports including motor cycles have topped the 120,000 units mark in recent years save for last year when the number slumped to 97,726 units.

Most of the units, especially cars, have been used in their source markets including Japan and Europe.

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