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SBI in deal

Gercine Carter / Geralyn Edward

SBI in deal

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A dispute between one of Barbados’ largest food distribution companies and the Customs & Excise Department has ended – for now.
SBI?Distribution has agreed to pay 40 per cent duty on 2 400 cases of a popular brand of orange juice it imports following a special meeting yesterday between officials of the Barbados Shipping &?Trading subsidiary and Customs.
Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler told the WEEKEND??NATION accusations of reclassification of the juice product had been distorted.  
Restaurants, hotels, bars and other tourism-related businesses have been anxious, while the sole importer SBI?Distribution awaited release of the product reportedly sitting in the Bridgetown Port for the past six weeks.
The issue was again raised by businessman Ralph White, managing director of Island Safari, when he made an impassioned plea to Minister of Trade Senator Haynesley Benn at a NATION Talkback town hall meeting on the cost of living at St George Secondary School Wednesday night.
Benn said the matter had been drawn to his attention and that it was receiving Sinckler’s attention.
He said an importer had brought “a matter to his attention about a specific drink product and “we recognised that Customs was seeking to reclassify that from 20 per cent to 40 per cent”.
Benn added he had been assured by another Government department that the product would be released within a five-day period.
However, Sinckler said he was recently made aware of the matter following petitions from the Barbados Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association. 
Sinckler said after requesting a brief it was revealed that SBI entered the juice under the classification of “Food Preparation” which attracted a 20 per cent duty and not under “Fruit Juices” which attract 40 per cent duty.
He said the importer was written on February 4, and told it was free to take the goods from the Port at the duty demanded by Customs and then enforce a dispute resolution process if it wanted to.
He said under the rules if it was found after that process that the importer was charged a higher rate than it should have, a refund would be granted.
Sinckler said following the meeting yesterday, SBI said it entered the juice under the classification 21007 following a “classification opinion” it received in 1981.
However, Sinckler said that classification no longer existed. 
“After the meeting, SBI appeared to have accepted the decision and will take possession of the goods and enforce dispute resolution later.
“Importers have been advised to seek the classification of goods with Customs ahead of importation . . . . ”
Please see also today’s WEEKEND NATION Pages 20 and 21.