Supermarkets in Rangoon are emptying their shelves of foreign brands of alcohol and cigarettes, after a government crackdown on illegal foreign imported goods.
Four distributor warehouses have been raided by government inspection teams and have had their stock confiscated in the last few months.
Marketing Manager for City Mart Holding Co, May Zin Soe, said the crackdown has forced supermarkets like hers, to stop selling foreign imports.
“If we are not allowed to sell, then we are not allowed to sell,” she said. “The foreign brands have been sold for years. It’s not just us who face a ban – every importer is in the same situation.”
The sale of foreign-made alcohol and cigarettes has been banned in Burma since 1996, although some selected hotels were given government import licenses and could sell imported goods.
Despite the ban, foreign alcohol and cigarettes have been widely available in the country.
In September, the government stopped turning a blind eye and began to raid distributor warehouses suspected of illegally importing goods.
According to a report by Al jazeera, 89,000 bottles of whiskey, wine and beer were seized from one distributor alone in Rangoon.
The government said the recent raids are efforts to stop illegal imports and protect local producers.
But distributors have criticised the move, saying the government should be more transparent with the country’s trade policies.
Nyunt Aung, a supervisor on the Rangoon Mobile Team, tasked with inspecting the warehouses, told DVB they would not be raiding supermarkets just yet.
“We are not inspecting shops and supermarkets at the moment. That is a part of the plan but will come later as we are implementing the tasks phase by phase,” he said.
Since September, hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of brand-name alcohol has been confiscated – sparking a shortage and forcing prices to rise.
Many businesses are losing profits, as demands from tourists, in the country for the SEA games, won’t be met.