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Stringent importation rules have forced many businessmen to stop using Eldoret International Airport in the last one year.
Stringent importation rules have forced many businessmen to stop using Eldoret International Airport in the last one year.

Consequently, two airlines have withdrawn their cargo services to the country’s third largest international airport. Cargolux withdrew its services in 2007 while Qatar Air Cargo followed suit a year later.

Only Emirates Sky Cargo and Egypt Air still fly to the airport on Monday, Tuesday and Saturday.

The airport, which handled 810,022 kg of cargo last June, only managed 233,196 kg last month.

The airport manager, Mr Peter Wafula, is, however, upbeat about the cargo operations at Eldoret, saying that while the number of airlines may have reduced, those remaining had increased capacity.

The commissioner for investigations and enforcement at the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), Mr Joseph Nduati, told the Sunday Nation that the government was insisting that importers give their identity, nature of cargo and its value before being allowed into the country.

“We want them (importers using Eldoret airport) to operate as it happens in other ports,” Mr Nduati said.

He noted that the stringent rules were introduced at the airport after the government realised it was losing millions of shillings while at the same time posing a security risk to the country.

“There are instances when importers had gone missing after drugs or prohibited goods had been impounded,” Mr Nduati said.

Last July KRA was reported to be losing an estimated Sh100 million every week through tax evasion in a syndicate that involved customs officials, importers and businessmen.

The loss involved a long web that had local and international links in the goods that were mainly collected from Eastleigh after being imported through Eldoret International Airport.

Other goods were smuggled through Wajir Airport that was upgraded to international standards by the government.

The syndicate had its tentacles in the Far East countries including China, Turkey, India and Dubai among others where most of their goods are sourced.

The goods smuggled into the country without attracting any duty included electronics, clothing as well as furniture.

Unlike other ports where importers are charged according to the value of goods imported, at Eldoret airport, traders were charged in accordance with the weight of their cargo. The charges ranged from Sh280 to Sh350 per kilo.

At the time, Mr Nduati said KRA was aware of the syndicate and was working on a plan to seal the loopholes exploited by the importers.

He said KRA was aware of the nefarious schemes operated by traders in the country and was determined to seal them.

And a year later now, KRA says it is in the business of improving revenue collection for the government and each importer is required to have a Personal Identification Number (PIN).

“So that if you import contraband, KRA can trace the owner,” the commissioner for investigations and enforcement added.

Mr Nduati said that even if the importers who have been using the airport moved to other ports, they would face the same stringent rules.

Not rosy

Cargo statistics given by the airport manager indicate that things are no longer rosy for Eldoret International Airport.

Since last June, cargo passing through the airport has been on a downward trend. From 810,022 kg last June, it plummeted to 617,280 kg the following month.

Last November, the cargo capacity went up to more than 700,000 kg only to plummet to 541,000 kg in January again. But last month’s capacity was the poorest for the airport in the last one year.

An importer who was using the airport said he had reverted to using the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport after realising that there were no benefits using Eldoret.

The importer said the charges at Eldoret were the same as Nairobi and, since his shops were in Eastleigh, it was cheaper.