A big Russian shoe manufacturer and retailer, Unichel, has appealed directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin asking for protection of the domestic footwear market from overwhelming smuggling of products into the country.
In a video posted to YouTube, officials of the company estimated that the share of smuggled products on the Russian shoe market had jumped to 40 percent or 50 percent and claimed that neither the government nor law enforcement agencies were making any efforts to deal with the problem.
The annual supply of cheap shoes from China to Russia is estimated at 150 million pairs per year, according Unichel's officials. They said that the products are being shipped through the territory of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan unchecked, without being subjected to any quality controls or custom duties.
Unichel wants the Russian government to address the problem through better controls at the border with Kazakhstan, which has been part of a customs-free economic block with Russia, the Eurasia Union, since Jan. 1, 2015.
Putin was asked to introduce the principle of criminal liability for shoe smuggling to Russia. As of today, smugglers are only subject to administrative liability, which means that they may have to pay a fine, without ending up in prison.
Unichel's officials also asked for the inspection of shoes entering the domestic market to verify the possible presence of hazardous chemicals. According to them, such controls could bar the way into the market for up to 80 percent of all smuggled shoes, since as a rule these products have rather poor quality.
Finally, the company's officials asked to limit the threshold for duty-free imports of products coming in through the postal system at the equivalent of about 30 euros per person and per month. This measure could cut the number of orders placed online at foreign websites, further backing the domestic economy.