Date prices soar before Ramadan

Dates were imported last year showing an unbelievably low price. Because of that the duty fee and tax have been increased. So, the price of this product has mounted abnormally.

Prothom Alo

For the last couple of years, allegations of many irregularities have been brought against traders importing dates. Prior to the month of Ramadan last year, many traders had announced to import expensive dates like Ajwa or Medjool only for 95cents to a dollar per kg.

However, those dates were sold in the local market for Tk 1,000-1,500 a kg. Basically, the traders had shown lower prices only to evade the duty fee and tax.

The issue of dodging duty and tax by showing unusually low import price came to light during the district administration’s drive at the date market in Chattogram last year.

Only then the customs authorities had become concerned and increased the tax burden on date import. Plus, the minimum import price was fixed as well in calculating the customs duty.

Including all, the tax burden on importing a kilogram of date now ranges from Tk 66 to 265. As a result, the government is collecting more revenue from date import.

However, the burden of this revenue collection has indeed fallen on the consumers. And the reason is that the traders raised the price of date in the market from the pressure of the tax burden.

Visiting different markets in Chattogram, it was found that the price of dates have gone up by Tk 100 to 400 per kg compared to last year.

Before Ramadan last year, when there came allegations of announcing lower price in importing dates, the customs authorities had fixed the taxable price for regular, medium and premium ones.

The first order was issued on 3 April last year while on 29 November the taxable price on date import was fixed for the second time in five categories.

Then in the third phase, the taxable price of importing dried dates was fixed as well in an office order on this 18 January. The taxable price is the price, based on which the customs authorities collect duty tax in percentage.

The tax burden on importing fresh dates was 10 per cent in 2022-23 fiscal year. The tax burden has been increased in the current year. In consequence, the tax burden on importing fresh dates has inflated to 58.60 per cent.

Duty, tax based on the category

According to Customs records, last year there was 10 per cent duty fee including advance income tax and advance tax on importing date. In other words, one would have to pay Tk 10 as duty tax for importing dates worth Tk 100. That duty tax rate has gone up in the current fiscal year.

At present the import duty on dates stands at 25 per cent. Apart from that there is 3 per cent regulatory duty, 15 per cent VAT, 5 per cent advance income tax and 5 per cent advance tax as well.

Premium dates like Ajwa, Medjool and Maryam are now being taxed assuming the import price to be USD 4 a kg. This way, Tk 265 is being collected as duty tax per kg.

The traders are also including this duty tax in the import cost while fixing the price of the dates for sales. That means, the Tk 265 duty tax levied on per kg of date is indirectly coming out of the customer’s pocket.

Apart from that, the duty tax for some dates is being calculated by assuming the import price to be USD 2.75 per kg and for those the tax burden stands at Tk 181. Meanwhile, for dates taxed at USD 2.5 per kg, this tax burden is Tk 164. And, the tax burden on low quality dates imported in sacks is Tk 66.

Proprietor of Chattogram-based date importing company Allah Rahmat Store as well as senior vice president of bangladesh Fresh Fruits Importers Association, Md Kamal told Prothom Alo that three months back they used to pay Tk 10 as duty on a kg of Zahidi date that comes in sacks. But now they are paying Tk 72 for the same dates.

Meanwhile, the duty tax for Zahidi date imported in cartons was Tk 110 back then but now they are paying Tk 280 for that. This way, the import duty has gone up on every type of dates, he added.

Majority of the date import comes through Chittagong port while the taxation is done by Chattogram customs. On 18 January, Cghattogram customs released the price-based categorization list of dates. According to that list, the taxable price of Ajwa, Maryam, Medjool and all other dates imported in frozen containers has been set at USD 4.

Apart from those, taxable price for all dates coming in cartons have been set at USD 2.75, for dried dates imported in sacks it is USD 2.5 and for wet dates imported in sacks it is one dollar. The customs authorities are collecting revenue at the rate fixed based on these taxable prices.  

Impact on market

The price of date has gone up in the market this time even before the Ramadan. At the largest wholesale and retail date market on Station Road of Chattogram, Folmondi, Ajwa dates are selling for Tk 1,100 per kg. While, the best quality Ajwa cost Tk 1,400 per kg, Medjool cost Tk 1,200 and Egyptian Amber cost Tk 1,300.

Proprietor of Ajwa Traders on Station Road, Md Gias Uddin told Prothom Alo that the price of all kind of dates has increased by Tk 200 to 500 per kg compared to last year. The price this year is extra high because of the high taxable prices.

Zahidi, Mashrookh Maryam, Nakal, Dabbas, Safari and Sugai dates are sold the most in the market. Even three months ago, the prices of these dates ranged from Tk 200 to 600.

Within a gap of three months, the prices of these dates have increased by Tk 200-300 per kg. On last Saturday, Dabbas date was selling for Tk 380, Mashrookh for Tk 500, Safari for Tk 800, Saudi Arabian Amber for Tk 800, Nakal for Tk 350 and dates on string was selling for Tk 500 in the markets of Chattogram.  

Proprietor of Arabian Dates from Folmondi, Shahidul Islam told Prothom Alo that apart from the tax burden the exchange rate of dollar is also high now. That added to the import cost of dates. And the prices are increasing because of that.

Meanwhile, proprietor of Kabir Store located in Reazuddin Bazar of Chattogram Nurul Kabir claimed that the sale of date has decreased from the price hike. The price of dates has increased for a month. And, it’s less likely to drop during Ramadan, he told Prothom Alo.

Talking to the traders it was learnt that Ajwa dates sold for Tk 700-1,000, Zahidi for Tk 150-180, Mashrookh Maryam for Tk 400-500, black Maryam for Tk 500-550, Nakal for Tk 250-260, Dabbas for Tk 200-250, medium quality Safari for Tk 250 and Sugai sold for Tk 150-180 during Ramadan last year.

Chattala Dates Shop themselves import dates. Proprietor of the shop Najmul Hasan said every year before the Ramadan retail sellers used to come and buy dates from them. The sale is extremely low this year.

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