Chicken feathers

| February 20, 2008

Last night, we had dinner with a representative of a major leaf merchant who was too diplomatic to question our sanity but impressed on us to be very careful as we probe the black market.

Apparently, manufacturing cigarettes is so lucrative that some Paraguayan tobacco executives drive armored cars to protect themselves against kidnapping—not the bulletproof types that protect against small arms fire, but vehicles designed to withstand mine blasts.

Regarding leaf exports, the tobacco trader told us that the Brazilian government years ago tried to cut the supply of Brazilian leaf to Paraguay by implementing a 150 percent tax on tobacco exports.

The Paraguayan government, however, successfully challenged that measure as a violation of the Mercusor free-trade agreement, and the export tax was removed.

But that doesn’t mean the smuggled cigarettes are made from high-quality Brazilian leaf. Rather, they are said to contain “funny ingredients” such as chicken feathers or even sand.

Category: Breaking News

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