Friday, May 16, 2008

Busy contraband trade across Vietnam-Cambodia border





Illegal trade of gasoline and sugar across the Cambodia-Vietnam border is now rampant in some southern Mekong Delta provinces.

Amid escalating world oil prices, Vietnam’s gasoline price, which is partly subsidized by the government, is lower than Cambodia’s fuel by VND5,500-7,500 (US$0.34-0.46) per liter.

Vietnam’s diesel and kerosene prices are also about VND3,000 ($0.19) cheaper.

An Giang Province’s Market Management Department estimated some 40,000 to 60,000 liters of fuel were trafficked out of the province daily.

The department named An Phu District, Tinh Bien District and Chau Doc Town as localities where fuel smuggling is rife.

A veteran trafficker N.V.M. said about 20 “businessmen” direct several dozens of people to smuggle gasoline, diesel and kerosene from Tinh Bien border town to Cambodia by water and land.

Fuel traffickers often mix kerosene into gasoline to earn more profit from sales, another trafficker named T.V.B. said.

Sometimes they add tra catfish oil into gasoline to “export,” T.V.B. said.

Domestic sugar prices, meanwhile, are higher than smuggled sugar by VND500-1,000 per kilogram, precipitating an illegal influx of the commodity into Vietnam.

Thailand’s sugar smuggled into Mekong Delta provinces via Cambodian traders is causing difficulty to sugar companies in the region.

Can Tho Sugar Company (Casuco) General Director Nguyen Thanh Long said although the company had reduced its sugar prices to VND8,000 per kilogram compared to early last month, it is still hard to compete with smuggled sugar, which is sold at about VND7,600 per kilogram.

Long said the company outlets in Can Tho City were now only able to sell between 50 and 100 tons of sugar daily, two to three times lower than before.

He also said around 300-400 tons of sugar are smuggled into the Mekong Delta region each day.

In An Giang Province, smuggled sugar bags are often falsely labeled before market distribution to avoid anti-contraband detection.