Cargo thieves prey on hair extensions and wigs as SA imports soar

Hair extensions for sale in a store. (Photo by Eric Lafforgue/Art in All of Us/Corbis via Getty Images)

  • Cargo thieves target hair extensions and other related products such as wigs and hair fiber.
  • Insurance claims for hair extensions are up 37% year over year for Hollard.
  • That’s when hair imports from South Africa jumped 64% in four years.
  • South Africa’s hotspots for hair theft are in the Johannesburg area, most likely for imports from the Port of Durban.
  • Among other goods, thieves have their eyes on solar panels and cannabis.
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Imports of wigs and hair extensions are increasingly prone to cargo theft and diversion once they reach South Africa, with these items becoming one of the most insured goods likely to be stolen.

South Africa’s illicit trade market is primarily responsible for the increase in thefts of wigs and hair extensions, said Marika van Rhyn, business development manager at Hollard Marine.

Globally, the hair extensions market is valued at around R41 billion and is expected to reach R59 billion in 2028, growing by 5.3%, according to market research firm Fortune Business Insights. .

He said the growing sense of fashion and aspiration for luxury among consumers in South Africa, and others in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, are mainly fueling hair extension markets in the Middle East and some African regions.

Over the past four years, South African imports of hair extensions have jumped 64%, with the country’s annual imports for hair products in general reaching around R1.1 billion, Van Rhyn said.

“There has been such a surge in demand for hair extensions in South Africa that the theft of extensions is becoming more and more common. Once stolen it is easily sold illegally and moves very quickly,” said she declared.

Hollard himself has seen a 37% year-over-year increase in hair extension requests.

Thefts typically occur at ports, when goods are unloaded after arrival, or in transit to their final destinations during hijacking incidents.

“Regardless of the risk, overall there’s a whole step that you go through, basically from producer to buyer. It’s packaged and it’s loaded at source and maybe again at a distributor or freight forwarder and again at ports. stops moving and passes into a new pair of hands, there is an increased risk of theft.

“We have some hotspots in South Africa, distribution centers in the Joburg area in particular. So those are the most common incidents,” she said.

She said cargo traveling on the Johannesburg route mainly passes through the Port of Durban and signals that South Africa’s illicit hair trade market is largely concentrated in Johannesburg.

Hair extension theft has overtaken coal theft, which was once considered “black gold”. As the world slowly shifts to green and renewable energy, the hottest new product has become hair extensions, primarily those imported from India and Brazil, Hollard said.

Van Ryhn said solar panels, which are also increasingly susceptible to theft and misuse, have seen significant import growth as South Africans seek alternative power solutions amid unstable power supplies. of Eskom overwhelms them.

“It’s a commodity that is increasingly being imported; the frequency is increasing. And it’s businesses as well as private customers; we have businesses that have to continue when they’re offline,” she said.

“Some of the components inside the solar panels have copper strips in them and that’s also something they’re [after]“, said Van Rhyn.

Cannabis is also becoming a commonly stolen commodity as the company has been exposed to diversion in Cape Town.

“[With] cannabis there are different types of products, basically raw cannabis and processed cannabis like CBD oil. When it’s in its raw format, when it still looks like the plant, that’s when it’s at the greatest risk of being misused,” she said.

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David R. Brewer