[DUBAI] Up to one million tonnes of sugar is trafficked into China every year, a Chinese agriculture ministry official said on Wednesday.
Countering the smuggling is a challenge for the government because of the country's long borders, Xu Xue, chief sugar industry researcher for the ministry, said.
"The cost of fully executing the law is expensive... there is a huge demand to deal with the smuggling but less power to do so," she told a sugar conference in Dubai through a translator.
She gave an estimate of roughly half to one million tonnes per year is being smuggled into China, the world's top sugar buyer.
"It is difficult to estimate the exact numbers but it is around that figure," she said.
On Monday, the president of the Indian Sugar Mills Association said that the bulk of Indian sugar exports were contracted for Myanmar but eventually ended up in China.
Smuggling of agricultural products along China's borders with Vietnam and Myanmar has long been a problem. While a crackdown in 2014 helped curb this, there are worries buyers will scramble for sugar supplies as the global market braces for its first deficit in six years.
Xu said the difference in price between foreign and domestic sugar provided a main motive for smugglers.
She forecast China's annual sugar output could reach 11 million tonnes in 10 years, when demand is expected to be around 18.5 million tonnes annually.
She said imports could reach 6 million tonnes by that time.
"There will be a consistent gap between demand and production but we hope in the coming 10 years we can reduce this gap between our supply and demand through increased storage," Ms Xu said.