EghtesadOnline: The Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration now allows local producers to clear up to 70% of their imports of raw materials and industrial machinery before going through customs procedures.
However, in the past four months, one of the sharp criticisms leveled at the government was about the large volume of unclaimed, imported goods left at customs terminals mostly due to the multitude of new regulations and directives.
President of Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture Masoud Khansari recently announced that as much as 7 million tons of goods have piled up at the country’s ports of entry, which is harmful to the economy since these goods could not be supplied within a reasonable time, Financial Tribune reported.
The telling example of how this operated in practice was the shortage of diapers in the domestic market over the past month. Had the raw materials of such products been delivered as scheduled, their shortage and price increase could have been avoided, according to a report by the Persian daily 'Iran'.
"The diaper market will go back to normal if the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration speeds up the clearance procedures and the government allocates the required foreign exchange for importing raw materials at subsidized rates," said the director general of the Ministry of Industries, Mining and Trade’s Chemical and Cellulose Industries Bureau, Parvin Nabati.
During the Saturday meeting, Jahangiri set a 24-hour deadline for officials to work out solutions to address the problem of cargoes abandoned in customs terminals.
On Tuesday, Director General of the Ports Division of the Ports and Maritime Organization of Iran Ravanbakhsh Behzadian said the customs clearance process has sped up at different ports across the country.
"For example, the volume of containers and essential goods piled up at Shahid Rajaee Port in the southern Hormozgan Province has decreased by 4% and 20% respectively in the past 15 days," IRNA quoted Behzadian as saying.
> Game Changer
The government's ban on imports of more than a thousand types of commodities late June was a game changer for the direction of Iran’s foreign trade.
Demand for import registration of different items surged in April, following the government's allocation of subsidized foreign currency to imports.
Statistics show that imports marked a 69% rise in the Iranian month ending May 21 compared with the previous month to hit $4.3 billion. The upward trend in imports continued into the following month (May 22-June 21), posting a 4% increase to reach $4.5 billion.
However, with the implementation of trade restrictions on June 24, imports began a significant decline. In the two subsequent Iranian months (June 22-Aug. 22), imports fell by 12% and 5%, respectively.
Constant changes in import formalities ranging from the provision of foreign currency to customs clearance and the resulting confusion are the main reasons behind the slump in imports.
The latest data show about 14 million tons of commodities worth $18.9 billion were imported in the first five months of the current year (started March 21) compared with $21 billion in last year’s corresponding period.
The average price of each ton of imports has dropped by 4% year-on-year to reach $1,353. The number of imported items (according to their eight-digit tariff code) has reduced by 242 tariff sections.
Despite the overall decline in imports, “the country is in a better shape in terms of essential goods now compared to last year”, IRICA Director General Foroud Asgari said in a meeting with First Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri on Saturday.
“The import of field corn has risen by 26%, oilseeds by 28%, red meat by 39% and barley by 51%. As we speak, the customs clearance process has improved to 4,700 trucks a day; on some days, it's 6,000,” he was quoted as saying by ILNA.