Solving problem of “preventing” smuggled herb ingredients

VCN - The domestic source of herbal medicine does not meet the needs of society, plus provisions of the law on herbal ingredient items, leading to some enterprises and individuals using all tricks to smuggle and illegally transport the herb ingredients across the border for earning profits.
solving problem of preventing smuggled herb ingredients
The case of over 100 tonnes of herbal ingredients made in China “camouflaged” agricultural products. Photo: T.Bình

Herbal ingredients are materials derived from plants, animals, minerals which can be used for many different purposes like raw materials, dietary supplements, health supplements, flagrance, manufacturing drugs and chemical products. Thus, herbal ingredients are one of the sources for drugs production, which plays a decisive role in the existence and development of the medicine industry, especially traditional medicine.

Meanwhile, the domestic source of herbal ingredient does not meet the demand of society, plus the provisions of law on herbal ingredient items and the import of herbal ingredient are inappropriate, leading to some enterprises and individuals using tricks to smuggle and illegally transport the above item across the border for profits. The major smuggled goods originating from China are often brought to Vietnam through trails and open roads in the northern border provinces.

By the end of 2018, the smuggling line of 100 tonnes of goods in Cao Lau commune, Cao Loc district, Lang Son province was caught by competent authorities on the open path. Among the seven trucks seized, most had herbal medicine.

On December 4, 2019, at Chi Ma border gate in Loc Binh district, Lang Son province, the criminals investigation on corruption, economy and smuggling Police Department (C03) - Ministry of Public Security worked with competent forces to seize case of import and transport of more than 100 tonnes of herbal ingredient across the border, but they were declared as dried fruits.

However, recently, due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and strict control of the competent forces on the northern road border, smugglers have changed their transportation via sea routes, and most likely transport across the road border to Laos and then continue transporting to Vietnam via trails and open roads in the central region and the Central Highlands.

On June 22, the Central Anti-smuggling Enforcement Unit (Anti-Smuggling and Investigation Department, General Department of Vietnam Customs) worked with Da Nang Port Customs Branch under the Da Nang Customs Department to inspected the shipment of five containers transported on INSPIR vessel, 20003S trip from HangPu port (China) to Tien Sa port (Da Nang) on ​​June 14. The shipment was owned by a company in Hai Duong.

According to the declaration, the goods included: "unprocessed dried jujube, apricots, cashews, turnips, carrots", used as food for boiling water. The inspection results showed the goods contained in five containers were mostly herbal. By using the preliminary sensory method it was determined that this was Chinese herbal ingredient. The total weight was about 103 tonnes.

Some enterprises took advantage of importing the above products with tricks of declaring the goods as food like cassia tora, adenosma glutinosum, cullen corylifolium, alisma plantago aquatica, mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), poria mushroom (sclerotium poriae cocos) and scutellaria rivilaris wall under the form of dried fruits or agricultural products.

According to the above items which are subject to management by the Ministry of Health, those are not raw materials on the list of foods products/groups of products as specified in Decree No. 15/2018/ND-CP of the Government dated February 2, 2018, regulated on the implementation of several articles of the Law on Food Safety. Therefore, when importing those goods, it is a requirement to have complete dossiers (import permits) granted by competent State management authorities and subject to import duty rates in accordance with regulations.

Therefore, to solve the problem of herb ingredients, the competent State management authorities on this issue needed to study some of the following proposals:

First, it is necessary to amend the provisions of Clause 7, Article 91, Decree No. 54/2017/ND-CP of the Government dated May 8, 2017 which stipulates that: "Medicines and ingredients are allowed to be imported through international border gates only, except for the case of medicine which is licensed for importing with the non-commercial purposes in accordance with the provisions of Article 75 of this decree "in the direction of allowing medicine to be imported through the main border gates (bilateral border gates). The reason is that in Clause 1.2, Article 4 of Decree 112/ND-CP dated November 21, 2014 of the Government stipulating the management of land border gates stated that:

1. International border gates are opened for Vietnamese and foreign people and means of transport to exit and enter country; export and import of goods.

2. The main border gate (bilateral border gate) is opened for people and means of transport of Vietnam and neighboring countries that have a joint border gate of entry and exit; export and import goods.

According to the above provisions, the international border gate is where the entry and exit activities of people and means of transport take place and the activities of exporting and importing goods of Vietnam and foreign coutries. Thus, the volume of people and goods that are not only from countries sharing the joint land border, but also people of other countries that come to implement customs procedures here is very large. If the regulation of medicinal materials (including herb ingredients) is only made through the international border gate, it will lead to an overload, which does not ensure the circulation of goods (the import of herbal ingredients must take time for conducting specialised inspection procedures before clearance of goods).

At the main border gate (bilateral border gate), it is only open for people and means of transport to entry and exit, import and export goods of two neighboring countries sharing the land border. Thus, the import of goods including herb ingredients in there is not only ensuring time for cargo clearance, but also cutting costs for businesses, ensuring strict specialised inspection of this items.

Secondly, State management authorities need to research and amend some items such as some dried fruits and trees (jujube, salted dry apricot, Lo han kuo, adenosma glutinosum, mugwort) in the direction of removing from the list managed by the Ministry of Health regarding herb ingredients. This is also in line with the Government's trend on asking ministries and agencies to review and eliminate import licenses for goods that do not need to be subject to specialised inspection management when importing, facilitating to enterprises, especially with Vietnam increasingly integrating deeper into international trade.

Thirdly, to ensure specialised inspection of the above items, it must arrange warehouses and yards that meet conditions and standards for preserving goods especially for perishable herb ingredients at the main border gate.

Arranging a team of qualified medical staff, professional qualifications, allocating vehicles and equipment to quickly and accurately inspect goods quality and reduce cargo clearance time.

By Đoàn Ngọc Toản(Permanent Officie of National Steering Committee 389) /Thanh Thuy

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