KINSHASA, DRC - Authorities have banned imports of several popular consumer products in the west of the Democratic Republic of Congo for six months to fight smuggling, Trade Minister Jean-Lucien Busa said on Monday.
"We have decided on the temporary restriction of imports in the western part of the country for six months of grey cement, sugar, beer and fizzy drinks in order to put an end to fraud and contraband," Busa told AFP.
The measure was also aimed at "protecting local industry in a crucial period of growth that risks being undermined by those who practice prices below production costs", the minister said, stressing that he had not "turned to protectionism".
In the southwest of the huge nation in the heart of Africa, on the border with Angola, a thriving market attracts numerous small traders who purchase their stock at very low prices. Such people "who pay neither customs duty nor taxes" represent a threat to the national economy, the trade minister said.
A Congolese brewery firm was forced to "close two of its plants in the provinces of Equateur (in the northwest) and Kongo Central (on the southern border with Angola)", Busa said.
Despite the partial ban, the vastly mineral-rich DRC remains "open to international trade", the minister added. Busa said he also "forbade exports of cinchona tree bark (notably used to provide quinine) so as to give priority in transformation" to the Congolese pharmaceutical industry.
Busa did not specify in which areas of the country the import ban applies, but the capital Kinshasa is located in the western part of the country.
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