Wednesday, March 6, 2013


United States import honey from many countries and every imported consignment is supposed to be tested for safety and quality. In trade terms under WTO regime, anti-dumping duties can be imposed if the imports are valued low affecting adversely the domestic industry. As Chinese are known to indulge in dumping many of their products in many countries at unbelievably low prices, recourse is taken to impose import duty to make them almost on par with prices of domestic products. Honey is one such item which attracts anti-dumping duty if it originates from China. Naturally to circumvent such fiscal impositions, China often routes its honey through other countries as technically it is difficult to trace the origin of the product through existing testing protocols. While economic aspect is one thing, what is bothering the US is that Chinese honey farmers are known to be unscrupulous in using banned antibiotics to deal with infections affecting the bees in its production centers. Here is a take on this on going "honey war" between the two super powers and its consequences.  

The government is alleging that Chinese honey — which can be laced with illegal and unsafe antibiotics — was misdeclared when it was imported to the United States and routed through other countries to evade more than $180 million in anti-dumping duties. HSI and Customs and Border Protection said late last week they have stepped up efforts to combat commercial fraud that directly impacts the economy and public health. The charges come more than a year after an investigation by Food Safety News found that laboratory tests could not detect the origin of more than three quarters of honey purchased at retail locations because ultra-filtration methods remove naturally occurring pollen and make honey impossible to trace. Many in the industry say this practice contributes to honey laundering. As one honey producer put it: "It's no secret to anyone in the business that the only reason all the pollen is filtered out is to hide where it initially came from and the fact is that in almost all cases, that is China."

While one has heard about "money laundering" that refers to converting ill gotten money by individuals who do not pay appropriate taxes in their countries resorting to routing the same to tax havens where no question is asked or no explanation is given. Honey laundering refers more or less to the same technique where Chinese honey is shipped to a third country with which the US has good relations and from there it finds easy entry into the US with relatively less cumbersome inspection and surveillance.  Raw honey if not processed through ultra filtration equipment, will contain pollen and probably critical tests can pin point the source of honey through pollen testing. Chinese send almost all their honey after ultra filtration making it difficult for easy detection. Now that the US as well as the EU have been able to crack this racket, Chinese should not be allowed to go scot-free for this heinous and devious action.


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