Eel does not float to Russia // Chinese fish importers faced problems

Importers of fish products from China faced additional charges for deliveries in 2016–2018. The Baltic Customs, based on the documents of the Chinese side, concluded that the contracts were undervalued. Russian importers are confident that Chinese suppliers have artificially inflated prices to obtain additional government preferences.

Russian importers faced additional customs duties for fish products imported from China in 2016–2018. The “Fish Union” reported the problem to the Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Agrarian and Food Policy and Environmental Management Sergei Mitin. “Kommersant” has a copy of the appeal. The Baltic Customs added additional duties to six companies, including Deart Fish, Ultra Fish, Amai Yug Plus. Deart Fish clarified that in all cases we are talking about the import of frozen and smoked eel, and the total amount of additional charges reaches 200 million rubles.

Deart Fish entered into agreements with two Chinese companies – Jiangxi Xilong Foodstuff and Fujian Metals & Minerals Imp & Exp. But during an audit in 2019, the Baltic Service revealed that the value of the exported goods in the declarations of exporters exceeded the price of the products declared by Deart Fish.

The service was based on documents from the Bureau of Inspection and Quarantine for Import-Export in Fujian Province. But as the chairman of the “Fish Union” Alexander Panin writes, criminal cases have been initiated against suppliers in China at the moment: they deliberately overestimated the cost of products in order to obtain additional deductions from the budget.

In addition, it is indicated in the letter, the legitimacy of the evidence and the Baltic customs is questionable: the documents of the Chinese authority indicate that they cannot be used as evidence in court. Alexander Panin asks Sergei Mitin to consider the possibility of applying to the Supreme Court for clarification on law enforcement practice. According to him, while the courts have taken ambiguous decisions. So, at the end of May, the Moscow Arbitration Court in the dispute between Deart Fish and the Baltic customs office upheld the additional charges and the fine. Mr. Panin is sure that the issue must be resolved through an explanation of the Supreme Court and amendments to the EAEU Customs Code. Sergei Mitin’s office did not answer Kommersant.

S&K Vertical’s lawyer Roman Romanov considers the position of the importers and the Fish Union to be justified. According to him, documents from the PRC are not the only admissible proof of the real value of imported goods, and companies can dispute them, including through examination.

The lawyer is confident that the importers still have a chance of winning the dispute if they prove that the Chinese side has inflated the price of the goods, including, for example, through the materials of criminal cases.

The Federal Customs Service (FCS) said that the customs value of the goods is justified by the maximum possible deal. And one of the signs of inaccurate information – the difference in the price in the declaration from the information on homogeneous, identical goods available in the customs authority, was added there. The FCS asks for additional clarifications from importers in case of non-compliance, when the companies do not provide them, uses the available data. The Federal Agency for Fishery said that the situation requires careful study.

How Russian fish blocked China

Deart Fish says that because of the situation, the import of eel has been completely stopped, although in 2016-2019 they imported one or two containers a month of 21 tons each worth 30 million rubles. The company added that they mainly import products that are not available in Russia. According to a company representative, similar problems with customs began with the import of seaweed, flying fish roe, and certain types of shrimp.

Agro & Food Communications Managing Partner Ilya Bereznyuk believes that not only the importers themselves, but also HoReCa enterprises may suffer because of the customs dispute.

The controversial fish products were supplied mainly to sushi bars and restaurants, and it is impossible to replace them. The restaurant holding Ginza Project Moscow said that they do not notice significant changes in the conditions of supply, but various kinds of difficulties – from price increases to disruptions – have regularly happened since the beginning of the pandemic.

Alexey Polukhin, Nikita Shchurenkov

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