Sunday, February 17, 2019

Meat Smugglers Continue to Evade Authorities

Meat smugglers continue to evade Chinese authorities, but shipments are smaller and more fragmented after several years of elevated enforcement efforts, customs officials say.

Customs authorities publicized several seizures of smuggled meat in January, ahead of the spring festival holiday:

Vans intercepted in Guangxi Province reportedly carried 1000 kg each of smuggled meat.
Also in January, customs officials reported to State media that their enforcement efforts have not been able to fully stamp out meat smuggling. Gangs controlling an entire chain of foreign purchases, transportation, and distribution within China now resemble a chain of ants bringing in smaller shipments concealed in trucks and decommissioned boats with false names and disabled tracking systems, customs officials say. Smugglers use cash or online payments with hidden records to avoid detection.

A customs post in Shenzhen said it seized 100,000 kg of chicken feet, wings, beef, and tripe last year.

Smuggled meat dodges tariffs, value added tax, exporter certification requirements, and inspection and quarantine procedures. Shipments of meat lacking proper documentation and required Chinese labels sell for approximately a 20-percent discount vs. legal meat. A metric ton of chicken feet can be 10,000 yuan cheaper than legal product.

Buyers are said to be mainly second-tier wholesale merchants who sell to restaurants, cafeterias, and barbecue stalls. Once in the country, smuggled meat is delivered all over China, some with fake labels affixed. A reporter monitoring an online discussion group said buyers asked specifically for undocumented meat. One buyer explained that the barbecue business is slow now, and he hopes the cost-savings from cheaper undocumented meat will yield a profit.

Officials complain that the low cost of smuggling and weak penalties keeps the smuggling business going. Most smuggled meat is purchased in small quantities that do not constitute a criminal offense and can only be assessed a fine. A food service company cannot be held liable unless it can be proven that they knowingly purchased illegal meat.

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