HANOI  - Vietnam has launched an investigation into allegations that sugar originating from Thailand is being imported via neighbouring countries to avoid anti-dumping taxes, its trade ministry said.

Vietnam in June imposed an anti-dumping levy of 47.64% on some sugar products from Thailand, one of the world's biggest sugar exporters, for five years. 

The probe follows accusations from local firms that sugar products were being imported from Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Myanmar that did not originate in those countries.

Sugar imports in Vietnam jumped five-fold to 527,000 tonnes from October 2020 to June this year compared to the same period a year earlier, the trade ministry said in a statement.

Imports from Thailand, however, slumped 38% in the same period.

"The sugar industry has provided evidence showing signs of Thai sugar's trade remedies evasion through five countries mentioned above, especially the sudden jump in sugar imports," the statement added.

Thailand's commerce ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Vietnam removed import duties on sugar imported from Southeast Asian countries in 2020, in accordance with the commitments of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Trade in Goods Agreement.

However, provisions allow import duties to be imposed on ASEAN nations to protect the rights and interests of their domestic industries against anti-competitive behaviour.

The ministry urged sugar trading and producing organisations to provide information to help the investigation, for which no timeframe was given.

(Additional reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat in Bangkok; Editing by Martin Petty)