Seminar discusses ways to combat sugar smuggling
Reducing smuggling of sugar into Vietnam requires strengthening of preventive measures and co-ordination among relevant agencies, further lowering of sugar production costs and requiring sugar to have clear origin details among other things, a seminar heard in HCM City on 29 October.
Truong Van Ba of the 389 National Steering Committee said: “Smuggling of sugar into Vietnam is increasing and becoming more sophisticated. It comes mainly from Thailand through Cambodia and the border gates in the south-west.”
Smugglers repackage the sugar under registered brand names to legitimise the contraband, he said.
Between the start of 2018 and September this year authorities dealt with more than 876 cases of smuggling, seizing more than 3,000 tonnes worth over VND12 billion (USD 518,500) and collecting over VND1 billion (USD 43,000) in fines, he said.
Nguyen Van Can, a member of the 389 National Steering Committee and General Director of Vietnam Customs, said “Authorised forces have improved checks and seized many cases of smuggled sugar. But despite such efforts, the situation has not improved much.”
He listed the difficulties authorities face, including long borders, cunning tricks used by smugglers and legal loopholes.
Regulations permit businesses that do not produce sugar to buy from other businesses, re-package it under their brands and distribute.
In addition, due to high profits, smugglers have adopted ways to illegally transport sugar into the country, he said.
According to the Vietnam Sugar and Sugarcane Association, Thai sugar prices sold at supermarkets in Thailand are equivalent to Vietnamese prices, but with subsidies export prices are much lower.
Cao Anh Duong, acting chairman of the association, said demand for sugar is around 1.5 million tonnes a year and local sugar mills would produce 1.2 million tonnes this year.
Around 800,000 tonnes are smuggled in every year, putting huge pressure on local producers, he said.
Le Trung Thanh, vice chairman of the Lam Son Sugar and Sugarcane Company, said sugarcane production costs have increased by 20-25 per cent a year in the last five years as small-scale production has made it difficult for farmers to mechanise, pushing up sugar costs.
Delegates suggested many measures to address smuggling, including stepping up the fight against it, inspecting the quality of sugar in the market and tightening inspection of business establishments licensed to produce sugar but lack factories.
Sugar mills need to improve the quality of their products and reduce prices, they said.
They also suggested the mills should invest more in technology to cut costs.
If locally made sugar is cheap, there would be no demand for contraband, they pointed out.
Ba said the Government should require all sugar to carry origin details to keep out contraband.
It should also amend the Law on Investment to include sugar production and packaging in the list of businesses that have to meet certain specific conditions.
Delegates said authorities should penalise smugglers more severely and not auction seized contraband but should sell it to sugar mills.
There are 40 businesses registered to produce and trade sugar.