Tanzanian authorities have confiscated more than 6 000 kgs of Malawian sugar which was smuggled into that country.
The news comes against the backdrop of sugar scarcity in the country which has prompted some major shops such as Shoprite, Metro and Chipiku to ration the sales of the commodity.
According to Tanzanianâ€™s The Guardian newspaper, the consignment was smuggled through Lake Nyasa shoreline in that countryâ€™s Ludewa District.
This confirms comments from Illovo Sugar (Malawi) Limited public relations officer Irene Phalula last week that a proportion of Malawiâ€™s sugar is illegally exported to regional markets where it is also on high demand.
The company is currently controlling supplies of the commodity it releases on the domestic market until their milling season starts in April.
Phalula said the smuggling of the commodity to neighbouring markets could impact heavily on the domestic supply where it sells 60 percent of its output.
This could lead to deficit in stocks meant for the domestic market, she said.
The Guardian reported that the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) in Iringa Region, in collaboration with the police at Manda mini-habour in Ludewa, seized the consignment.
It was later stored in a warehouse and the authority made it public by distributing it to the needy and public institutions.
Ludewa district commissioner Georgina Bunda was quoted by the paper as urging the recipients of the consignment to use it for the intended purpose.
She urged the public to avoid smuggling, arguing it is dangerous to both human and the economy because it may bring into the country goods and services which are not fit for human consumption.
“You must be honest to your country and pay tax without dodging for the nationâ€™s economic and social development. The public institutions which received the sugar are Ludewa District Hospital, Ibihi Prison, Mundindi Special School for Disabled Persons, Ulayasi Secondary School, Kayao Girlsâ€™ Secondary School, Mlangali Health Centre, Makonde Health Centre and Mchuchuma Secondary School,” she said.
Other recipients were pregnant women at Ludewaâ€™s Lugarawa Mission Hospital, Ketawaka Girls, Mavala and Manda secondary schools.
Iringa Region customs officer Protas Mlingi said Section 200 (d) of the TRA Act mandates the Commissioner General to nationalise any goods and services that evade tax while Section 199 stipulates the kind of punishment the convicted smuggler should be given.
Mlingi identified the vehicles found carrying the sugar consignment as T 762 AAV belonging to Donata Mgeni and T 894 AWK owned by Cretus Lupenza. The owners were fined seven million Tanzanian shillings each.
The Lake Nyasa shoreline is now rampant with illegal businesses, including being used by Somali illegal immigrants who pass through Malawi and Mozambique to South Africa in search of greener pastures.
The erratic supply of sugar in Malawi has become more visible in the past two months. They first started with the shortage of brown sugar.
In a normal season, Illovo produces about 300 000 tonnes of sugar, 60 percent of which is sold domestically with the remainder exported to markets in the European Union (EU), USA and the African region, according to the company.
A recent study by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) indicated that about 20 percent of Malawiâ€™s sugar is smuggled out to neighbouring countries such as Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania through undocumented or informal trade.