China-Myanmar trade slows to a trickle

The coronavirus outbreak in China has caused trade between Myanmar and its neighbor to slow to a trickle, trade officials say.

The clearest example of this is the plunge in the volume of watermelons from Myanmar that are crossing the border to the east.

“About 600 truckloads of Myanmar’s watermelons used to cross the border a day in the Muse border trade area in Shan State. Since the outbreak earlier this year, the number of loads has plunged to about 30, a reduction of 95 percent,” said U Naing Win, chair of the Myanmar Melon Producers and Exporters Association.

China is one of Myanmar’s largest trade partners, with goods flowing between both countries across land routes and by sea. The Chinese government’s restrictions on travel between provinces in the country that are part of efforts to curb the spread of the virus are causing severe problems at border trade areas, U Naing Win added.

“As long as this health emergency continues, losses will continue. It is important to combat this disease so markets can return to normal as soon as possible. If not, the damage will be huge. A continued reduction in a business volume of 95pc is just unsustainable,” he said.

“The slowing of watermelon sales, one of the main export commodities in the Muse area, started on January 13. In the past, there was more demand during the Chinese New Year period and a truckload of watermelons was worth from K8 million to K13 million, but prices have now dropped by between 50pc to 70pc ” said U Sai Khin Maung, vice-chair of the Muse Fruit Commodity Brokers House.

Traders in Muse say that the Chinese government’s travel restrictions are impeding the flow of goods.

This is being compounded by new restrictions on oversea trade routes as well, said Ministry of Commerce Assistant Secretary U Khin Maung Lwin.

“Import and export license applications for oversea trade with China were stopped this week, so trade seems to be slowing to a crawl,” U Khin Maung Lwin said.

“It is still too early to tell how much damage this is causing in financial terms. It all depends on the duration and severity of the health emergency,” said U Sai Khin Maung.

Towards the end of 2018, Kyin San Kyawy Gate, one of the main border crossing points to China for watermelons and cucumbers, was closed for just two weeks due to conflict, but this caused thousands of truckloads of watermelon to be stranded at the border area, causing damage estimated to be around K20 billion (US$13 million). – Translated

Source: Myanmar Times

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