The Economics Of Agricultural And Wildlife Smuggling
Imports of certain agricultural and wildlife goods that may carry pathogens or diseases are banned in the United States, although items of this nature are routinely discovered during cargo inspections. This study identifies the economic factors affecting this type of smuggling, based on data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Agricultural and wildlife smuggling involves items that command a high price compared with cost and size, including luxury items and jewellery, ethnic foods, and specialty goods. Incidents involving such smuggling most frequently originate from Mexico and China, although certain goods tend to come more frequently from certain countries:
- China – meat
- Mexico – fruits and vegetables
- Mexico and Russia – wildlife goods
Wildlife smuggling accounts for about 1% of all commercial wildlife shipments to the United States and about 0.4% of the total value of U.S. Wildlife imports. Agricultural smuggling accounts for about 0.03% of total agricultural imports from China.
Smugglers are motivated by profits and, consequently, governments may reduce the incentive to smuggle by increasing the costs of the activity through higher penalties and tighter enforcement to reduce the return on investment provided by smuggling.