Food importers air grievances in session

National 2 minutes, 23 seconds


LONG waits and unclear guidelines for importing food products were among the issues raised during a dialogue session yesterday between the Ministry of Health (MoH) and food importers.

Held at the MoH building, the event saw several food importers and officers from different government ministries sharing views and suggestions on ways to better facilitate food importing procedures in Brunei.

Jessie Voon, owner of a local franchise, said a quicker way should be found to manage food imports, as the Brunei Darussalam National Single Window (BDNSW), a one-stop online resource for customs declaration, ‘isn’t efficient enough as it’s not always working properly’, which leads to the slowing down of the whole food import procedure.

“Is there any way that we can make the procedure faster? The form in the single window can’t be saved or (sometimes the website stops working) so we can’t continue the online process,” she said.

BDNSW was launched in 2013 by the Royal Brunei Customs and Excise Department (RBCE) to simplify the declaration, verification and approval of imports and exports.

MoH integrated their system with BDNSW in December last year.

A food importer representative from Malar Setia Sdn Bhd agreed with Voon, suggesting that RBCE do a major upgrade to its BDNSW server.

“I notice that every Friday, the single window is always not working,” she said, adding that customs officers are never available onsite to talk about the issues food importers are facing.

“We were told to make appointments every time before meeting with officers, and when we seek advice from them, different customs officers give different opinions,” she said.

She also wondered why food importers need to re-register the same food products of different sizes.

“I don’t understand why we need to register for the same food that comes in smaller or bigger sizes. Isn’t it the same? This just makes the process longer,” she said.

Among other issues raised by the importing companies were the unavailability of guidelines, such as what kinds of ingredients are prohibited and which ones are allowed to be imported into Brunei as well as irregular updates on regulations.

A representative of a food importing company who only wished to be known as Dylan proposed that all food importers be issued notices on future changes made to regulations.

This would be to avoid confusion and wasting of time among food importers, he said.

One of the participants also ex pressed disappointment, claiming that some of her packages have been opened and items taken without consulting with her.

The dialogue session was chaired by Dr Hjh Maslina Hj Mohsin, Deputy Permanent Secretary (Professional and Technical) at MoH.

Also present during yesterday’s dialogue session was Permanent Secretary of MoH Hj Zakaria Hj Serudin, representatives from the RBCE and personnel from the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources.The Brunei Times