BEIJING, June 20 (Reuters) - China will step up its efforts to tackle sugar smuggling, the General Administration of Customs said on Tuesday, weeks after Beijing hiked import tariffs to better protect local producers.
As much as 2 million tonnes of sugar is estimated to arrive illegally in China each year, transported across porous borders with southern neighbours Vietnam and Myanmar and sold illegally at wholesale markets.
Domestic producers have complained that the illegal imports, along with cheaper legal imports, have damaged their sales in recent years.
But though last month's hike in import duties on legal shipments was welcomed by the local industry, analysts contacted then said it could further incentivise smuggling by keeping domestic prices high and reducing supplies.
To bolster their efforts, the customs administration will strengthen inspections and the collecting of intelligence, it said in a statement on its website.
Customs has confiscated 6,526 tonnes of smuggled sugar between February and the end of May, the statement said. They also uncovered 148 cases of sugar smuggling during this period, involving sugar worth 78.99 million yuan ($11.57 million).
Those efforts are thought to have slowed the smuggling through Yunnan province, leading to the arrest of some traders and boosting domestic prices, traders and experts said.
$1 = 6.8256 Chinese yuan renminbi Reporting by Hallie Gu and Dominique Patton