News / Economy

Vietnamese Tax Dodgers Hurt Foreign Coffee Firms

A man piles coffee cherries while processing them at a buying agent in Son La province, west of Hanoi, Nov. 19, 2012.A man piles coffee cherries while processing them at a buying agent in Son La province, west of Hanoi, Nov. 19, 2012.
x
A man piles coffee cherries while processing them at a buying agent in Son La province, west of Hanoi, Nov. 19, 2012.
A man piles coffee cherries while processing them at a buying agent in Son La province, west of Hanoi, Nov. 19, 2012.
Reuters
Some local dealers are using a tax dodge to buy up much of the coffee in Vietnam, the world's top producer of the robusta variety used for instant coffee, slashing the market share of international traders.

The dealers take advantage of loopholes in Vietnam's system governing value-added-tax payments and refunds for exportable goods, using some of the resulting price advantage to outbid competitors in buying coffee from farmers, traders said.

The coffee is then being sold on to exporters, but leaving a murky paperwork trail.

European Coffee Federation [ECF] secretary general Roel Vaessen said the body, representing major international trade houses and roasters, was concerned about the issue.

"It has been drawn to our attention, we do take it seriously, and we have had internal consultations with our members on how best to address the issue," said Vaessen, declining to comment further.

Vietnam's cash crop

According to the organization's website, ECF members include companies such as Louis Dreyfus, Volcafe, Bernhard Rothfos and Nestle.

Vietnam's total export volumes, worth roughly $3 billion a year, are unlikely to be much affected and consumers worldwide therefore will feel little impact on price, while coffee farmers are getting a bit more for their beans.

The harm arising from the VAT dodge is felt by Vietnam's state coffers, for which coffee provides a major revenue stream, and by companies that pay taxes. Efforts to increase the traceability and transparency of coffee origins also are being damaged.

"This tax dodging has made it difficult for legitimate companies to buy coffee locally," said an executive of a Vietnamese export firm based in Ho Chi Minh City, who asked not to be identified.

International traders estimate their market share of exports has fallen to about 20 percent in the current season, from 35 percent in 2011/12, mostly due to this tax issue.

Foreign firms say it also may have a longer-term impact on foreign direct investment in Vietnam, although the country's dominance in robusta coffee is assured for now.

"Trading companies with expansion plans will put them on ice," said a trader at an international firm, adding that future projects could be shifted to rival robusta coffee producers in Southeast Asia, including Indonesia and Laos.

Unfair advantage

The dealers avoiding VAT can gain a competitive advantage of up to $70 per tonne of coffee they buy from farmers - amounting to about four percent of the total, making it difficult for international traders to compete, traders said.

Liffe robusta coffee futures were at $2,004 per tonne shortly after 1100 GMT on Thursday.

Asked to comment on the tax issue, the chairman of the Vietnam Coffee and Cocoa Association [Vicofa], Luong Van Tu, said: "There are several small businesses that have been dodging the tax, while most others follow government rules properly."

The local authority of the country's largest coffee growing province, Daklak, said it knows of the practice and has set up checkpoints to inspect coffee cargoes for proper invoicing.

Huge export volume

Vietnam exported 24.4 million 60-kg bags of coffee in 2011/2012, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. World 2011/2012 coffee exports were estimated by the USDA at around 114.4 million bags.

Its May coffee export volume is forecast to fall to around 100,000 tons, from an estimated 110,000 tons loaded in April, due to slowing trade and difficulties in buying beans locally, traders said.

The tax issue is creating problems with traceability, as invoices can help provide transparency along the supply chain, aiding sustainability certification schemes such as Rainforest Alliance and 4C certified coffee.

"A lot of companies invested serious efforts in building up these sustainably sourced coffee flows, and then because of the tax situation and the way coffee is being channelled locally, that is lost," said an industry source.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8916
JPY
USD
121.32
GBP
USD
0.6487
CAD
USD
1.3252
INR
USD
66.401

Rates may not be current.