Coffee farmer complains of being overcharged continually by Customs
December 14, 2012

Coffee farmer complains of being overcharged continually by Customs

Douglas DeArment, a local coffee farmer and producer, says he has continually had problems with the local Customs service.{{more}}

The entrepreneur told SEARCHLIGHT he imports green coffee beans for blending for his business and that accumulatively, the duties on the product amount to 25 per cent.

However, DeArment said that he was overcharged the first time he imported the coffee beans.

He stated that instead of placing it in the correct category, his product was placed in another category where the duties were higher.

“They overcharged us. They put it, rather than in the green coffee beans for blending category, they put it in ‘other’, because in ‘other’ they can get 60 per cent duty,” he said.

DeArment further said he has imported coffee beans three times, and every time, Customs has placed his product in “other”.

“It’s like the law is less important than revenue for Customs,” he said.

The coffee farmer’s distaste for Customs began when he took on a three-year task of getting back monies that he said he had paid unfairly.

He told SEARCHLIGHT that he had imported fruit tree seedlings and was told by the chief VAT officer that there were no duties on seedlings.

However, when the seedlings arrived, he was charged VAT on the plants, he said.

DeArment explained that he was snubbed by several customs officers who insisted that he had to pay VAT on the seedlings.

He further stated that it was not until a Customs Appeal Board was set up and he got to explain his problem that he was refunded.

“I’ve been through Customs in many countries and often it’s a one-minute or two-minute process, one third of a sheet of paper and one customs officer,” he said.

“The same thing going through Customs in St Vincent, they need five customs officers, about 20 sheets of paper and three days.”

The entrepreneur also believes that Customs is deterring other businesses from coming to St Vincent.

“People won’t come here because of Customs. People have personally told me they will not come here after knowing what Customs is like in St Vincent,” he said.

DeArment, who is also a dental technician, said that Customs assumes the worst of importers.

He explained that, as a dental technician, he imports items that are factory sealed.

“Customs sometimes breaks the seal and sticks their finger in there … I once saw a dirty thumb print in there,” he said

He said it costs a lot of money, because the product immediately begins to expire and that the service is destroying businesses that way.

Searchlight was unsuccessful in repeated attempts to reach Comptroller of Customs Grenville John for comment. (BK)