Ramadhan dates stuck at port despite govt tax waiver

Tuesday May 21 2019

Ramadhan dates

Labourers offload cartons of dates for distribution to poor Muslims in the Coast, Northeastern and Nairobi during the holy Month of Ramadhan, May 7, 2019. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

ANTHONY KITIMO
By ANTHONY KITIMO
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A shortage of dates has been reported in Kenya despite the government’s announcement of a waiver of taxes on goods imported during the holy month of Ramadhan.

The demand for the dates has resulted in higher prices, with Muslim leaders attributing the circumstance to importation delays.

Sheikh Mohamed Khalifa, Organising Secretary of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK), said importers were yet to collect their consignments from the port of Mombasa.

“We have tried to follow up on the issue ... most of business people are yet to clear their cargo at the porT," he said.

"This has resulted in a shortage. We are not in a position to supply the dates to those in need and to mosques."

NO EXPLOITATION

Sheikh Khalifa asked traders to consider the prices, not profit, as Islam does not tolerate exploitation.

"This should apply, not only in the case of dates, but also other food prices."

In 2018, Treasury Principal Secretary Kamau Thugge said the government would pay taxes on dates imported during the holy month.

The announcement was in a letter signed by Mr Thugge and sent to Kenya Revenue Authority Commissioner-General John Njiraini, Mr Thugge.

The move, a gesture of goodwill to the Muslim community, came after previous attempts by the government to waive taxes on the importation of dates.

NO CHANGES

Mohammed Mwaboza, a trader in Mwembe Tayari, sells a kilo of dates at between Sh300 and Sh500 depending on the grade.

Mr Mwaboza said there were no price changes despite the government's directive.

“Prices are controlled by importers. We are yet to get tax-free dates despite the announcement of the waiver every year during the holy month," he said.

"I shall only lower the prices only if the government implements its directive."

A spot check by the Nation found the prices of food and clothing items increased as Muslims entered the third week of fasting.

HOLY MONTH

Ramadhan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, during which Muslims fast from dawn to sunset.

The holy month, which starts with the sighting of the first crescent of a new moon, is marked to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to prophet Muhammad. 

This year, Ramadhan began on the evening of May 5 and will end on the evening of June 4, upon confirmation by Chief Kadhi Ahmed Muhdhar. 

During the period, Muslims largely eat dates, Mediterranean fruits, when they break their fast as it is easy to digest.