China / Society

Smuggling of food products on the rise

By Zhang Yan (China Daily) Updated: 2014-04-04 07:10

The smuggling of agricultural products, including rice and frozen meat, into China is soaring because of the nation's rising cost of food, according to the General Administration of Customs on Thursday.

Between January and March, national customs investigated 114 cases of smuggling of agricultural products worth 1.46 billion yuan ($235 million), according to figures released by the administration. That figure represents a 10 percent increase from the total number of smuggling cases in 2012.

In 2013, there were 218 cases of rice smuggling, up 53 percent compared with 2011. There were also 720 cases of smuggling frozen beef, lamb or chicken that resulted in the confiscation of 94,000 metric tons of frozen meat.

"Huge price differences between China and some foreign countries, such as some African and Southeast Asian countries, and the improved production capacity and the low cost of labor in those countries, have mainly contributed to the sharp rise in smuggling," Wang Hua, spokeswoman for the General Administration of Customs, said at a news conference on Thursday.

She said the smuggling of agricultural products "will greatly affect the healthy development of domestic farming and processing industries".

In March, the administration directed 10 customs bureaus, including those in Liaoning, Shandong and Hunan provinces, to bust a criminal gang operating a cross-border smuggling ring involving peanuts, sesame seeds and peppers.

Customs authorities captured 73 suspects and confiscated more than 200,000 tons of peanuts valued at up to 500 million yuan, according to the administration.

The smugglers purchased the peanuts and sesame seeds from African and Southeast Asian countries and transported them to Vietnam for storage, according to the administration. They then smuggled them into China through the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

"The amount of peanuts seized was as much as the total annual production of a planting county in China. The smuggling affected national food security and endangered the interests of farmers," said Zhu Feng, deputy director of the anti-smuggling department at the General Administration of Customs.

Many of the smuggled products that somehow avoided inspections and quarantine checks from customs, posed serious safety risks, said Zhu, who added that about 30 percent of the 94,000 tons of seized frozen meat came from areas that had poor health conditions.

Customs will launch a campaign to target agriculture-related smuggling, including rice, corn and frozen meat, that will run through December, Zhu said.

During the campaign, customs will focus on smuggling activities at sea or land border areas that lack sufficient supervision. Customs will also investigate residents from bordering countries to see if they have multiple-entry passes. Often these residents are paid to repeatedly carry a small number of agricultural products through customs checkpoints.

Authorities will also pay greater attention to combating fraudulent customs declarations.

Li Lin, a lawyer from the Beijing Lawyers Association, said "the key is to enhance capability for obtaining relevant intelligence" to combat rampant smuggling.

Customs and border-frontier police should enhance their supervision on land and sea border areas that are not equipped with checkpoints that provide criminals with a greater chance of smuggling in food products, she said.

Hot Topics