Zim Revenue Scourge – porous borders lose millions

cigarettes

The Zimbabwe Herald suggests that Zimbabwe could be losing millions of dollars in unpaid taxes due to rampant smuggling of cigarettes into South Africa, investigations by this paper have revealed.Between 2014 and 2015, local customs officials seized nearly 2 500 cartons worth around $500 000 in taxes, according to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority.

Figures from the South African side are staggering, showing a wide discrepancy in the value of confiscated contraband between the two neighbouring southern African countries.

The South African Revenue Service told The Herald Business that it had seized R87 million (US$6,2 million) worth of Zimbabwean cigarettes since 2014, or 95 million sticks.

This will likely be worth millions of dollars in evaded tax in Zimbabwe, but the ZIMRA director for legal and corporate services Ms Florence Jambwa said the figures were difficult to determine because smuggling was an underground trade.

South Africa, however, says it loses an estimated R40 million (US$2,9 million) to cigarette smuggling each year, on the average, more than half of it Zimbabwe-related.

And this is just from what is on public record. Customs officials from both countries admit the figures could be higher. Both are also greatly incapacitated to detect illegal trades quickly.

“It is difficult to measure the levels of smuggling as this is an underground activity mostly done through undesignated entry points,” said ZIMRA’s Jambwa, by email.

“The value of the potential loss cannot be easily ascertained,” she said, failing to provide an estimate.

Tax analyst Mr Tendai Mavhima said the figures from ZIMRA represent only a small portion of the actual amount of money Zimbabwe is losing to trafficking of cigarettes.

“The disparity in figures (ZIMRA and SARS figures) indicate there are problems in controls on either side, which may result in the revenue and tax losses from both countries being understated,” he said by telephone.

Zimbabwe is the world’s fifth largest producer of tobacco after China, the USA, Brazil and India.

The country produces flue-cured Virginia tobacco, considered to be of extremely high quality and flavour, according to a report on Zimbabwean tobacco companies by local stockbroking firm, IH Securities.

As such, Zimbabwean tobacco ends up in many top cigarette brands across the world, it says.

It is especially popular in China, the largest importer of Zimbabwean tobacco, and in South Africa, the country’s largest trading partner.

In South Africa, Zimbabwean cigarettes are on demand for two key reasons: high quality and affordability.

It costs just $1,50 for 20 sticks in Zimbabwe compared to $3,20 for the same number of sticks in South Africa, according to estimates by regional economic bloc, SADC.

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) said: “Cigarette clientele opt for cheaper cigarettes. The high supply and demand for illicit cigarettes creates the market for it.”

South Africa imposes very high taxes on cigarette imports – about 80 percent meaning many Zimbabwean dealers choose to export illegally.

SADC says illegal dealers supply nearly two thirds of the number of cigarettes smoked by South Africans.

In 2011 alone, at least 4 billion cigarettes smuggled into South Africa originated from Zimbabwe, it says.

The undeclared cigarettes are usually concealed in trucks, buses and other vehicles destined for South Africa by organised cartels, said Florence Jambwa of ZIMRA.

Sometimes the cargo is shipped at undesignated points on the porous border between the two countries. Source: Zimbabwe Herald

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Africa losing $40bn in illegal cigarette trade

ContrabandA tobacco body has urged African governments to stamp out illegal tobacco trade, as their economies are losing billions of dollars in taxes annually. Tobacco Institute of Southern Africa (TISA) revealed that governments in the region are losing between US$20 billion and US$40 billion annually in taxes as a result of illegal tobacco trade, hence the need for collaboration among stakeholders to curb the vice.

This is contained in a statement issued by KPR Consulting Limited on Friday. “The size of the global illegal tobacco trade ranges between 330 and 660 billion cigarettes a year. These are cigarettes that are either smuggled, counterfeited or where tax is being evaded. “This equates to around six and 12 percent of global consumption, which deprives governments of between US$20 [billion] and US$40 billion a year in taxes,” the statement reads.

TISA, which is a regional body that represents tobacco traders, growers and processors, estimates illicit tobacco trade incidences in Zambia being between 20 and 30 percent. South Africa is rated among the top five countries globally when it comes to the trade in illegal cigarettes, with industry research estimating that around 23 percent of all cigarettes consumed in South Africa in 2014 were illegal. Commenting on the issue, British American Tobacco Zambia managing director Clara Mlambo cited weak penalties for criminals, poor border controls, low arrest rates and tobacco taxes creating intra-regional disparities as contributing factors.

Tobacco in South Africa

smoke-cigaretteCigarette volume sales increase in 2011 – Retail volume sales grew by 1% in 2011, following declines throughout the review period. Retail value sales grew significantly due to a general price increase to cater for taxation increases, as well as rising production costs for manufacturers.

Porous borders continue to influence the growth of illicit cigarette sales – Volume sales of illicit cigarettes continued to grow during 2011, despite efforts by the police and tobacco industry stakeholders to combat illicit trade. Porous borders have been identified as the key factor behind the rise in the amount of illegal cigarettes being smuggled into the country. The Beitbridge border post between South Africa and Zimbabwe was identified as the main point of entry for illicit cigarettes from Zimbabwe.

High import duties restrict the growth of the cigars category – The performance of the cigars category remains suppressed due to high import duties on all cigars. The unit price on most cigars increased significantly in 2011 to accommodate import duty increases. Local distributors were reluctant to import new cigar brands due to a low turnover for existing brands. Consumption of cigars declined in 2011 due to higher unit prices for leading brands, with only festive seasons seeing some respite.

Consumers continue to favour buying tobacco products from supermarkets – The supermarkets channel remains the major point of access for most tobacco products in South Africa. Supermarkets tend to sell tobacco products at relatively low profit margins when contrasted with other channels, such as tobacco specialists. With the rising cost of living, smokers still prefer to use supermarkets to buy tobacco products due to the lower prices.

Retail volume sales expected to decline over the forecast period – Slower but relatively stable growth is expected for retail plus illicit volume sales over the forecast period, however retail sales alone are expected to decline. Category performance is expected to be restricted by legislative restrictions, such as a ban on the advertising of tobacco products in any way other than at points of sale. The Government of South Africa is also considering a total ban on the display of tobacco products at points of sale. Thus, retail volumes are expected to decline, while illicit sales will continue to rise during the forecast period.

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Source: Euromonitor.com