Myanmar’s Cosmetics Industry Tries to Fend Off Counterfeits, Rampant Illegal Imports

International cosmetics products are widely available in the Myanmar market, but concerns over quality and safety still remain. To learn more about cosmetics products in the market, Myanmar Business Today interviewed U Kyaw Min, chairman of Myanmar Cosmetics Association and president of Shwe Pyi Nan Co Ltd.

Myanmar Business Today (MBT): What are Myanmar Cosmetics Association’s plans to stop illegally imported cosmetics products in the domestic market?

U Kyaw Min (UKM): The association is working to create a law for cosmetics which is essential to control illegal cosmetics imports to Myanmar because there is no such law right now. We are going to study other Southeast Asian countries’ cosmetics laws. We have legal consultants and experts to draft the law and we will submit it to the parliament through parliamentary representatives. We will try our best.

MBT: Can you tell us when it could be finished?

UKM: Actually, it is difficult to provide a deadline right now because we don’t have any experience in drafting laws. We will try to complete the law as soon as possible.

MBT: Where do the illegal cosmetics come from? How do they enter into Myanmar market?

UKM: It is difficult to say with specific numbers and statistics. If we separated the cosmetics into four categories, the first type is the products that come only through legal imports. They register with the FDA then get distributed in the market.

The second type of products come both through legal and illegal ways. The brands are popular in the international market. Of course, to receive FDA approval the brands have to be legally imported.

There are some products sold by authorised distributors in the Myanmar market, but they don’t have FDA’s certificate. There is no law regulating cosmetics so maybe they think that they don’t need FDA’s certificate.

The fourth type of products have no authorised distributors. FDA don’t even consider them because they are illegally imported.

MBT: Are the cosmetics in the market safe?

UKM: If we see a product without FDA’s approval, we can assume it is not safe and it should not be used. It’s also easy to tell if a product is counterfeit by sight and price. For example, international products likes SK2 and MAC are available online. A lipstick costs K3,000-4,000. Korean brands are also available in online shops at a much cheaper price. If it is a real product, the price will be at least K10,000, but if they are selling a Korean brand for a cheaper price like K4,000 or K 2,500 (for wholesale) including promotion and discounts, it is easy to know it is a counterfeit product.

MBT: What would be the most effective way to control the illegal imports?

UKM: The Association is currently discussing with experts on the matter. Currently, it is difficult to take any effective actions. The production of counterfeit international brands takes place in Thailand or China and then they are illegally imported into Myanmar, we know this. If there are authorised distributors for a product, they can ask the authorities to sue the illegal distributors of the same brand. However, there is no authorised distributor to complain about counterfeit products because 70 percent of the international brands have no authorised distributors in Myanmar market.

If the FDA discovered harmful materials in the products, it could take action in line with the Myanmar Health law. There are many illegal products in the market. If FDA’s laws were as strong as others are internationally, they could’ve tackled and eliminated the illegal products. But currently, FDA’s laws are under construction so the situation is difficult to handle.

MBT: What can you do to raise public awareness about using counterfeit cosmetics products?

UKM: We are trying to raise public awareness about counterfeit products through social media platforms, such as Facebook, as much as we can. We also ask newspapers and broadcasters to raise public awareness about the harmful effects of using counterfeit products.

MBT: Where can the customers get safe cosmetics products?

UKM: Generally, it is better to buy cosmetics from authorised distributors. The customers spend money for it so they have the rights to choose safe products. Buying from a reputable cosmetics counter or store is the best option. Online cosmetic sales will probably become safer and more trustworthy in the future. There are both reputable sellers and distributors who give the industry a bad name. Some sell expired cosmetics by replacing the expiration date.

MBT: How about Myanmar’s traditional cosmetics? Will they be able to penetrate international market?

UKM: As for my company’s traditional cosmetics products, we legally export to the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam. Thai market has potential and Myanmar products are widely available in well-known cosmetics centres. Depending on quality, some products may have potential and take a place in the international market, but that is not an easy job.

MBT: What are some of the challenges for Myanmar cosmetics to penetrate the international market?

UKM: The important thing is maintaining quality as well as making attractive packaging. We have to learn the international market situation before we start exporting. We need both capital and human resources.

MBT: Are there any restrictions for international brands to enter the Myanmar market?

UKM: Appointing authorised distributors for Myanmar market is not a big deal, but as for investing in the cosmetics industry they may face some barriers. As we see here, infrastructure disadvantages such as electricity and the poor banking system discourage investors. But I can say that foreign investors are more interested than before.

MBT: Where does the raw material come from? Are domestic suppliers capable of fulfilling raw material demand?

UKM: There are some international standard raw material suppliers in Myanmar. It is a good advantage for big manufacturers, but a challenge for starters. For example, most of the raw material suppliers don’t sell low amount of materials such as one kilogram or five kilograms. Very few suppliers sell small quantities of raw materials so most suppliers are not able to supply startup businesses in the cosmetics manufacturing industry.

MBT: What would be your message to Myanmar’s cosmetics entrepreneurs?

UKM: I invite all the cosmetics manufacturers to apply to become a member of the Association. The reason why I invite them is that foreign cosmetics manufacturers are looking for local partners through embassies to distribute their products in Myanmar market. Local players may get more offers to work together as partners if they are with the Association. International focus on Myanmar is getting bigger due to the country’s potential. Being a member of the Association will be advantageous for local businesses. This will give them access to more information. The Association is currently working on holding monthly educational seminars so that the local businesses can learn more about the trade.


Source: Myanmar Business Today

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