More than 2,000 containers of rice are still stuck at the Mombasa port, following the closure of two container freight stations owned by Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho’s family.
The cargo has accrued storage charges of over Sh500 million.
According to Mr Japhet Asige, the lawyer for one of the importers, Dotcom Consultants Ltd, the Kenya Ports Authority refused to release the goods despite a court order.
“When we were in court on February 18, a submission was made that the containers would be delivered but this has not happened. My client has paid duty and I don’t know why the cargo is being held up to this moment,” he said.
A 20-foot container is charged $80 (Sh8,400) per day for storage, and the figure rises after the first seven days.
The rice has been at the port for over 30 days, and the importers have indicated that with the charges accruing daily, it would be difficult for them to pay.
“While the refusal by the KPA to release the cargo is in breach of the court order and the submissions the counsel for the agency made in court, the rice, being a perishable commodity, is getting damaged.
“As a result, my clients stand the danger of losing business and even getting out of business,” said Mr Asige, adding that the rice was from Pakistan.
KPA lawyer Njoroge Mungai, however, refused to comment on the matter, saying it would be sorted out in court.
Last week, the Pakistani High Commission asked the KPA and the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) to release 37,500 tonnes of rice held at the port.
The commodity was supposed to be cleared at Autoports and Portside freight stations, which were shut by the KRA for allegedly dealing in contraband goods.
Pakistani High Commission’s commercial counsellor, Mr Amir Mohyuddin said the cargo, imported by the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan, had been at the port for over a month.
On Thursday, the Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association’s Mombasa branch chairman, Mr Eric Gitonga, said there were still problems in clearing the consignment since it was not clear how storage charges would be waived.
This comes as the revenue authority on Thursday announced the discovery of 16 containers loaded with contraband goods at the port.
Mr Julius Musyoki, the commissioner of customs and border control, said the sugar had a tax value of Sh28 million.
The taxman said the containers, imported by Ms Flowlmer Distribution Company, had been declared as “dividing heads part of grinding machine” and “truck boring mesh” packages, instead of sugar.
“The 16 containers verified so far are loaded with sugar packed in Kakira Sugar Company bags, to ostensibly mask its origin.
“Kakira Sugar Company is based in Uganda and any imports originating from the firm would ideally enter Kenya by road or rail haulage through land borders and not through the port,” the taxman says in a statement.