Multiple government bodies team up to tackle garlic smugglers in Thailand
A price slump has been blamed on smuggled garlic from neighbouring countries
By Phusadee Arunmas
Thailand’s Commerce Ministry is teaming up with the Customs Department and military officers to tackle smuggled garlic, in an effort to curb the domestic garlic price slump.
Boonyarit Kalayanamit, director-general of the Internal Trade Department, said the domestic garlic prices have fallen to 77.5 baht (US$2.42) per kilogramme from 115 baht (US$3.59) per kg in the same period last year.
Much of the drop was attributed to smuggled garlic from neighbouring countries, he said.
“The Foreign Trade Department is working closely with the Internal Trade Department, the Customs Department and Internal Security Operations Command to deal with the issue, particularly garlic smuggled from neighbouring countries,” said Mr Boonyarit.
“The Internal Trade Department, in particular, is empowered under the 1999 Price of Goods and Services Act to govern the import and transport of goods and services. Under the Act, any persons who possess and move the garlic without permits will be liable to imprisonment of at least five years or a fine up to 140,000 baht (US$4,374), or both.”
Thailand is estimated to produce 76,500 tonnes of garlic this year, 10.6 per cent higher than in 2017, as there are more plantation areas, notably in the North such as Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son, Lamphun and Lampang. Domestic consumption amounts to 100,000-110,000 tonnes. Thailand relies on importing about 40,000 tonnes a year.
Adul Chotinisakorn, director-general of the Foreign Trade Department, said Thailand is allowed an import quota by the World Trade Organisation of 65,000 tonnes of garlic a year. Imports under the quota are taxed at 27 per cent, with imports beyond the quota taxed at 57 per cent.
Under the Asean Free Trade Area agreement, garlic imports are duty-free for business purposes and resales are prohibited. The imports are scheduled between July and October every year and transported through designated border checkpoints.
Kulit Sombatsiri, director-general of the Customs Department, said the department pledges to inspect garlic imports from neighbouring nations, particularly when the Thai harvest is sold during March and April. He said the smuggling is mostly in Chiang Rai province.