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Friday, May 7th, 2021

Punjab illegal cigarette industry 20% of total market

_MG_3825INVC NEWS Chandigarh,

FICCI CASCADE (Committee against Smuggling & Counterfeiting Activities Destroying the Economy), unveiled its nine sector report titled - ‘Illicit Market: A Threat to Our National Interest’ at a hotel here today. This is a quantitative study evaluating the impact of illicit markets on various economic aspects in the Manufacturing Industry including sectors like FMCG Packaged Foods and Personal Goods, Computer Hardware, Automobiles, Mobile Phones, Tobacco & Alcohol and secondly - the Media and Entertainment Industry including the Broadcasting and Motion Pictures sectors. As per the report, the total loss to the government estimated for 2014, on account of the illicit markets in respect of the seven sectors manufacturing industry is Rs 39,239 crores, up from Rs 26,190 crores in 2012.  The loss is inclusive of both indirect and direct taxes -- the indirect taxes component is Rs. 34,020 crore and direct taxes is Rs. 5,218 crore. The study has also discovered that during the course of two years from 2011-12 to 2013-14, revenue loss to the Government has grown-up exponentially by Rs. 13,049 crores, an increase by 49.8%. Amongst the various sectors, the maximum revenue loss to the exchequer on account of counterfeiting and illicit trade is attributed to tobacco products at 23%, estimating a revenue loss of Rs. 9139 crores. The state of Punjab has seen a significant growth in illicit trade among these sectors in the last couple of years. It is one of the fastest growing markets for illegal cigarettes and alocohol in the country. Illegal cigarette industry is estimated to be around 20% of the total cigarette market in the State. The supply of legal cigarettes has been static and even shows a decline, the illegal players have taken over this market and is growing at a higher rate. In case of alcohol, the illegal market has also grown significantly in the state in quantity especially for IMFL and imported liquor. Mr P.C.Jha, Adviser FICCI CASCADE and former Chairman, Central Board of Excise & Customssaid, “During the last twenty years, the volume of the counterfeiting activity has increased 100 times and the size of trade in counterfeited goods is 10% of the legal international trade (around 2% of the world’s overall economic output).”
Quoting the recently released FICCI CASCADE study, Mr. Jha stated that the loss to manufacturing related sectors has increased by 44.4% in the two years, from Rs72,969 crore in 2011-12 to Rs 105,381 in 2013-14. The study also establishes a relationship between high taxes and availability of illicit products.  High tax rates tend to exacerbate illicit markets by creating greater demand for cheap and counterfeit substitutes. A significant reason for this being that high tariffs and taxes create opportunities for those involved in illicit markets to step in and supply ‘reduced’ versions of the original product at lower prices. This is true for the tobacco and alcohol Industry. These industries are not only highly taxed; the tax structure is highly complex in nature. Besides, there are considerable differences in tax rates between states which open up opportunities for illegal cross-border trade. Mr Deep Chand, Adviser FICCI CASCADE and former Special Commissioner of Police, New Delhisaid, “In the past few decades, leading intelligence and law-enforcement agencies around the world have found conclusive evidence of the increasing involvement of terrorist organizations in counterfeiting, piracy and smuggling activities to fund their activities. While several counterfeiting outfits are transferring portions of their proceeds to terrorist organizations, some of these are set up for the sole purpose of financing terrorism. The need of the hour is tangible actions to increase enforcement and to impose increased punishments. This is imperative to reassure legitimate business owners and consumers that the government is serious about protecting right owners which, in turn, would elicit greater support for government policies.” Mr. A S Cheema, DIG Police, Chandigarh shared his views about the extent of the menace in the state and also highlighted the various initiatives taken by the Punjab Police to curb this growing socio-economic threat. He also thanked FICCI CASCADE for taking up the issue and said that the masses should say ‘NO’ to smuggled good. Punjab has seen a significant growth in illicit trade among these sectors in the last couple of years. It is one of the fastest growing markets for illegal cigarettes in the country. Illegal cigarette industry is estimated to be around 20% of the total cigarette market in the State. High State level taxes (VAT) on legal cigarette industry, resulting in high prices for legal cigarettes is the key reason for such an impressive growth of illegal cigarette industry in the State. Most of the manufacturers of such illegal cigarettes based in Punjab and neighbouring states evade the high Central Excise Duty and State VAT and thus are able to offer their products to consumers at rock-bottom prices. Price of illegal cigarette pack in Punjab is one fifth of the price of a legal packet, which makes the former very attractive to consumers, particularly youth and rural population. As a result, the domestic manufacturers of legal cigarettes are at great disadvantage on prices with such illegal cigarettes, which find great favors amongst consumers, particularly in semi urban and rural areas. Punjab and the neighbouring states, because of the existence of the illegal manufacturers, has also become the distribution centre for tax evaded cheap cigarettes for the rest of the country. Smuggled international contraband cigarettes are another big menace contributing significantly to the alarming growth of illegal cigarettes in Punjab. Illegal cigarettes (domestic tax-evaded plus smuggled contraband) are willingly pushed by the trade because of high trade margins on account of evasion of all kind of duties including Excise and State level VAT. Over the years, popularity of such illegal cigarettes (smuggled and domestic tax-evaded illegal cigarettes) has spread across urban and rural youth, as they tend to be cheap as well as carry international brand names. Such illegal cigarettes totally defeat the tobacco control objectives of the Govt. as they neither bear any Health Warnings required as per Indian laws nor have other mandatory declarations like MRP, Date of Manufacture or Place of Manufacture.  High Value Added Tax (VAT) on cigarettes in Punjab compared to the rest of the country has also resulted in larger scale diversion of cigarettes trade into the State. As a result cigarette traders (including small time retailers) of the state have lost their business to International and Inter-State smugglers and anti-social mafia who are involved in manufacturing of illegal cigarettes. Several steps have been taken by FICCI CASCADE to create large-scale awareness through various initiatives organised across the country as part of a nation-wide awareness campaign to highlight the issue and focus on the growing menace of smuggling and counterfeiting.

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