Diapers smuggled in large quantities

Infant in Diapers. Photo: Frank May / NTB scanpix

Norwegian diapers smuggled in large quantities

Low diaper prices in Norway have led to smuggling with the aim to sell them on the black market abroad.


As a result of a price war in the grocery stores dating from 2010, Norway has very low prices on diapers compared to other countries. The stores used cheap diapers as a lure to make parents of infants and toddlers shop with them. Eight years later, the Norwegian diaper prices are still low compared with other countries in Europe.

While Norwegians go to Sweden to buy cheap meat and candies, many foreigners come to Norway to buy cheap diapers. In fact, prices in Norway have led to several making a hefty profit from the illegal sale of Norwegian diapers.

Master’s thesis on diapers

Smuggling and sales of Norwegian diapers on the black market induced Heidi Buø Åmot to write a master’s thesis about the phenomena. The thesis was completed in 2016, but the smuggling is still going on. This is confirmed by a chief of section in the border control, Bjørn Arild Sørli. Sørli is employed by the customs Region Central Norway.

He tells that there have been few diaper seizures in recent years, none so far this year, but is sure that it still takes place even though it had its heyday a number of years ago.

Very lucrative

Buø Åmot says that diapers are very lucrative because there are so large price differences between different countries. At the same time, she points out that it is difficult to define the extent of smuggling and how often it occurs.

– It’s hard to say anything about how many people are doing this, as diapers in themselves are not illegal to buy. That makes disclosure much more difficult, she says.

During the assignment, Buø Åmot estimates that there have been between 80 and 250 diaper smuggling attempts a year. That corresponds to 2 to 10 million diapers a year, sold at as little as NOK 1.20 a pop, roughly a third of the price in, say, Sweden. Overall, this provides the diaper smugglers with an annual profit in the range of NOK 2 to 6 million.

Few seizures

Even if buying diapers is legal, you are required to notify or provide information to the Norwegian Customs Administration if you export goods with a value of NOK 5,000 or more. This according to Norwegian law.

Buø Åmot further informs that Norwegian and Swedish Customs between 2011 and 2016 made 13 diaper seizures. It represents a very small proportion of the number of smuggling attempts and shows that the likelihood of being discovered and punished is very low.  The net value of the diapers seized in Norway and Sweden has varied between NOK 10,000 and 75,000.

Why diapers?

Norway has by far Europe’s cheapest diapers. You will not have to travel further than Denmark or Sweden before the prices are at least doubled. The price difference with other countries is more than enough to make diaper smuggling very profitable.

For example, Buø Åmot has found that the profit of a smuggling trip from Norway to Lithuania is between NOK 13,000 and 19,000 a pop. That constitutes more than an average monthly salary in Lithuania and provides insight into the profitability of buying goods where it’s cheap and selling it where it’s expensive, which is, needless to say, the case with any kind of trade.

In addition, the likelihood of being discovered and punished is relatively low, so the pros outweigh the cons by a good margin.



© NTB scanpix / #Norway Today