Illegal cigarette?

A packet of the Youki cigarette brand which is now circulating the corners of Honiara. Island Sun caught up with this (above) 20-cigarette pack in east Honiara on Wednesday
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Company allegedly starts producing without licence

By Gary Hatigeva

A packet of the Youki cigarette brand which is now circulating the corners
of Honiara. Island Sun caught up with this (above) 20-cigarette pack in east Honiara on Wednesday

THE Chinese-owned company, Oceanic Oasis, reported to have applied for a manufacturing licence with the responsible authority, is alleged to have started manufacturing tobacco products even without the legal permissions (licences).

This comes just a week after reports confirmed the company’s application to the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) which implements the Tobacco Act and also governs the issuance of licences for both tobacco importers and manufacturers.

Last week’s reports revealed that despite the confirmations, the ministry has not granted a manufacturing licence to the company, and its status therefore remains as an importer.

The Permanent Secretary who is currently away on overseas duty, in his earlier response to an interview with SIBC’s Leni Dalavera, explained that the MHMS will not issue a licence to the applicant unless it meets minimum requirements under the Tobacco Act, which the authority felt has yet to be fulfilled by the intending manufacturer.

A follow up by Island Sun with the Ministry yesterday further confirmed the Permanent Secretary’s earlier revelation and that to date, the ministry has not issued any licence to any second manufacturer, Oceanic Oasis for that matter.

It is understood that officials from Customs have visited the company site as part of its duty under the Act, however this paper was not able to get comments from them regarding the visit.

Meanwhile, in the earlier reports, the PS was of the view that indicated the applicant’s intentions to start manufacturing straight away once granted licence, and this has come as no coincidence as the company is allegedly producing, despite not being granted the required licence.

Because of the similarities in looks and confusions over the packet status, a follow up was made with the Solomon Islands Tobacco Company Limited (SITCo Ltd), who denied producing nor importing any new products or brands on cigarettes.

But someone close to the company who wants anonymity, however claimed that the packet under the brand name “Youki” (pictured) is a product of the Henderson-based company, which has already done a good number of production, something he said was for samples purposes, and that some of their products have already been widely circulated in markets and various locations in the eastern parts of Honiara.

This has however raised questions regarding the legality of the matter, and that the company should not even produce a single cigarette roll if not granted a manufacturing licence.

Concerns were also raised, pointing out that if the company has yet to obtain a licence as according to the PS for the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, then producing these packets of cigarettes even for samples is an illegal act by Oceanic Oasis.

The foreign company (Oceanic Oasis) is already operating in the country as an importer of tobacco products, under a tobacco import licence, and had shown interests to go into manufacturing the product locally.

Questions were also raised surrounding the company’s imported brands, and sources have revealed that based on data and reports, their (company) main or most popular imported brand happens to be Pall Mall, which is understandably produced locally by SITCo Ltd, but nothing in the reports on the importation of any products with the Youki brand name.

“There’s no record to show the products being imported, unless if their products are being imported only to be exported,” a MHMS official suggested.

If the Oceanic Oasis’s licence is approved, they will become the second tobacco manufacturer in Solomon Islands, which will bring the total number of tobacco businesses in the country to three, but the raised issue is now putting all these, especially with intentions to establish as a manufacturer, in limbo.

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