Norway is a smuggler's paradise

Border between Norway and Sweden. Illustration
By Reidar Molthe

26 January 2018 09:07

Norway is a smuggler's paradise

The Norwegian customs made record seizure of smuggler beer in 2017. It worries the beer industry, and it should worry the government.

Norwegian customs made record batters of smuggler beer in 2017. Since the turn of the millennium, smuggling of beer is probably tenfold.

"The threshold for buying smuggler beer is obviously very low in much of the population," says Petter Nome, director of the Brewery and Beverage Association.

He refers to a survey conducted by YouGov for the association, which shows that 32 percent of the population wanted to buy foreign beer at half price if they did not risk anything. This corresponds to about 1.3 million Norwegians.


Customs confirms that there are professional players behind the smuggling, and they have previously estimated that only between five and ten percent  of what is being smuggled is seized.

If that is the case, we buy between six and 12 million litres of smuggling beer each year. By comparison, over 150 Norwegian small-scale breweries brew about 12 million litres of beer in 2017, according to The Brewery and Beverage Association.

"We know that criminal gangs, especially from Eastern Europe, have professional distribution networks in Norway and actively use social media, especially for young people," says Nome.

He refers to several Russians, where the bulk of the abandoned voyage comes from Poland.

No limits

"When you can buy a good Polish strong beer for NOK 15 per box, it is understandable that people with bad guidance or weak economy, can be tempted," says Nome in a press release.

A normal Norwegian box of beer in costs approximately NOK 26 in the store. Of this, almost NOK 19 are taxes to the state (alcohol fee, packaging fee and VAT.)

"The smugglers do not operate with age limits and sales times. This increases accessibility for children and adolescents. Smuggling also affects Norwegian jobs and income to the state. In addition, many of the smugglers beer end in the nature," says Nome.

According to statistics from Hold Norge Rent (Keep Norway Clean), one third of beer box cleared from beaches and open-air areas originates from abroad.

Trade off

Norwegian alcohol policy is historically stricter then in neighbouring countries like Sweden and Denmark.

The increasing problem of smuggling suggests that there are boundaries for how high taxes the government can put on alcohol and other goods before smuggling comes out of control.

Alternatively, that there is a potential trade off between the size of alcohol taxes and the need for money spent on controlling the border.

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