Smuggling of tresses leaves exporters tearing at their hair

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on May 02, 2019 Published on May 02, 2019

By smuggling human hair into China, traders avoid paying import duties of 30 per cent (file photo)   -  Reuters

Destination is China; Commerce Ministry writes to CBIC to take action

Increased instances of smuggling to China, directly and through Myanmar, are eroding the human hair export business from India. After several years of complaints from the industry, the government finally seems to be responding.

Based on the reports by human hair exporters of major smuggling and under-invoicing of hair shipped to both China and Myanmar from India, the Commerce Ministry has written to the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs and the Anti Smuggling Unit to take appropriate action. It is also considering the request of exporters to restrict the export of raw hair (goli).

“The numbers say it all. The export value of un-worked human hair from India has fallen sharply to $248.10 million in calendar year 2018, against $341.53 million in 2014, while volumes and prices have gone up. It is because of the heavy under-invoicing of shipments. In addition, large-scale smuggling is happening through the Aizawl and Moreh borders, which is totally unaccounted for,” said Sunil Eamani from Indus Hair Extensions, who is leading the industry’s efforts to get the government to take action.

“By under-invoicing, human hair is being exported at a very cheap rate from Tiruchi, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Chennai. Chinese nationals come with visitor’s visa and buy raw hair and export in tonnes through unscrupulous traders. They also export by air under fake names,” said Benjamin Cherian, President, Human Hair & Hair Products Manufacturers and Exporters Association of India, in a letter to the Commerce Ministry last month.

The advantage

Eamani, who is also a member of the Aassociation, said the advantage of smuggling raw hair to Myanmar is that a large number of young children are employed in the country to untangle the hair and are paid a pittance and this increases the profit margins of traders.

“The human hair export business is creating employment in poor districts of West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh with women untangling hair clusters, which are then exported to various countries to be converted into wigs and hair-extension products. But, now, children in Myanmar are paid as little as ₹12 per day,” said Eamani.

By smuggling human hair to China, traders also avoid paying import duties of 30 per cent imposed by the Chinese government. “The Chinese governmentrecently arrested three Indians from West Bengal and nine Chinese nationals engaged in illegal buying and selling of hair,” Eamani added.

Published on May 02, 2019
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