‘Up to 30% of beer sold in Myanmar is illegally smuggled’: Study

Bottles of Chang Beer, a product of Thai Beverage (ThaiBev). Photo: EPA

Global research firm Euromonitor International yesterday released its independent study on the prevalence of the illicit trade of beer in Myanmar. In a country which has an import ban of beer, up to 30% of all beer sold is illegal, a size of nearly 1 million hectoliters in 2016. Of this, 96% is beer that is smuggled across borders by land or boat. Based on the research which included store checks across 4 cities, 95% of illicit beer is well-known, mainstream Thai brands.

The research firm estimates the loss of tax revenue for the Government caused by the illicit trade of beer as 48 - 52 million USD in 2016. This is the amount which could be earned by the Government if legitimate beer producers in Myanmar could instead make up the volume.

Euromonitor has unprecedented experience quantifying illicit trade and understanding its drivers, with reports produced in more than 30 markets to date. Specifically, research findings in Myanmar suggest that affordability is the key driver for consumption of smuggled beer, which is on average about 35% cheaper than locally produced beer for a 330ml can, based on store check findings.

Commenting on the report, a spokesperson from the Brewers Association of Myanmar said, “The high prevalence of illicit beer as highlighted in the Euromonitor report is a concern not only for local beer producers but also for consumer safety, Government revenues, and the economic development of Myanmar. Smuggled beer is a third cheaper than locally produced beer because it pays no tax. On the contrary, the local beer industry paid 150 billion kyats in Special Goods Tax last year and is proud to invest and provide jobs in Myanmar. The Brewers Association of Myanmar is willing to work with all stakeholders to raise awareness and support the Government in its increasing law enforcement efforts to help tackle illicit trade.”

The report cites that 75% of smuggled beer is packed in can, due to its ease of transportation. It is estimated that 80% of smuggled beer is passing through the Thai border, with 20% through the Chinese border. The proportion of illicit beer sold in retail is highest in areas near the borders.

A spokesperson of the Brewers Association of Myanmar added, “Compared to other countries where counterfeit beer, home-brewing or parallel trade is high, identifying illicit beer in Myanmar is relatively easy – it is all brands not produced in Myanmar. Beer producers in Myanmar offer a range of local and international brands, and consumers can check the labels on their beer to confirm it says ‘Made in Myanmar’.”

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