Muse of­fen­sive spills over onto trade

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - CHAN MYA HTWE KHIN SU WAI

On­go­ing fight­ing in north­ern Shan State has shut Myan­mar’s main over­land ex­port route and has left traders wor­ried about the eco­nomic im­pact.

AN out­break of fight­ing in north­ern Shan State has closed the 105 Mile bor­der trade zone at Muse – Myan­mar’s main over­land route for many ex­ports – leav­ing traders wor­ried about the eco­nomic fall­out.

Over 1000 trucks and around US$10 mil­lion worth of goods typ­i­cally pass through the zone ev­ery day, ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Com­merce. So far this year more than US$3.8 bil­lion has been ex­ported to China and more than US$1.5 bil­lion im­ported ac­cord­ing to min­istry data.

But an of­fen­sive that be­gan in Kutkai and Muse town­ships has brought trade to a stand­still. The fight­ing started on Novem­ber 20 when an al­liance made up of sol­diers from the Ta’ang Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Army, the Kachin In­de­pen­dence Army, the Myan­mar Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance Army and the Arakan Army launched an at­tack on mil­i­tary and po­lice tar­gets.

The “Min­ing of bridges and at­tacks on bor­der out­posts by these armed groups also cut-off [the] flow of trade, trans­port and com­mu­ni­ca­tion [that is] de­ter­mi­nately af­fect­ing the so­cioe­co­nomic lives of [the] civil­ian pop­u­la­tion in the area,” said Daw Aung Su Kyi as chair of the Na­tional Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and Peace Cen­tre in a state­ment yes­ter­day.

“Traders dare not come to the trad­ing zone [now] be­cause of the fight­ing,” said U Khin Maung Lwin, as­sis­tant sec­re­tary from Min­istry of Com­merce on Novem­ber 22. “Peo­ple’s daily in­comes have been hit.”

U Ming Aung, govern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tive and as­sis­tant di­rec­tor for the Shan State bor­der points, said it would take be­tween 10 and 14 days for con­di­tions to re­turn to nor­mal.

“Bridges have been de­stroyed and that makes it dif­fi­cult for goods to reach Muse,” he said. “It will take time.”

Some ex­porters have switched to other ex­port routes. U Taing Kyaw, an eel ex­porter, said that he was now us­ing Chin Shwe Haw route in north­ern Shan State rather than Muse. But he and ex­porters of crab and frozen fish had lost be­tween one-third and one­half of their typ­i­cal prof­its, he said.

One rice mer­chant said he was us­ing the Bhamo route in Kachin State, and had not “suf­fered much” al­though prices there were lower.

U Khin Maung Lwin noted that Muse traders mov­ing to other routes like Chin Shwe faced dif­fi­cul­ties, in­clud­ing a lack of fa­mil­iar trade con­nec­tions.

“The [Muse] trade may stop [for a while] be­cause of the raid,” said U Soe Tun, deputy chair of the Myan­mar Rice Fed­er­a­tion. “It doesn’t mat­ter if it’s stopped for a short time, but we will be af­fected if the route is closed for a long time. Many ex­porters and im­porters use that route, and the na­tion’s econ­omy could be af­fected.”

The 105 Mile trad­ing zone is the main trad­ing route to China, which in turn is Myan­mar’s main ex­port des­ti­na­tion for rice and an array of other agri­cul­tural prod­ucts. Myan­mar ex­ports rice, maize, beans, eel, shrimp, crab, fruits and flow­ers to China, while con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als are among the main im­ports.

U Tun Aye, chair of Myan­mar Ma­rine Prod­ucts Ex­porters Association, said his in­dus­try was heav­ily re­liant on China and that the lo­cal mar­ket would dis­ap­pear if the trad­ing are re­main closed.

“Eels and crab ex­ports can­not be stored they are sold in­stantly,” he said. “Lo­cal fish prices will fall as pro­duce can’t be ex­ported.”

U Kyaw Sein, a trader from Muse, said that farm­ers would face dif­fi­cul­ties if trad­ing area re­mained closed given the high vol­ume of agri­cul­tural prod­ucts ex­ported to China.

Sugar trader U Win Htay noted that whole­salers are of­ten able to hold stock un­til a sit­u­a­tion changes. Be­cause farm­ers can­not af­ford to hold off on sell­ing their har­vest they are worse af­fected, he said.

U San Tun Lwin, a trader from Man­dalay Re­gion, said that lo­cal prices for crops were al­ready fall­ing be­cause the key ex­port route to China was closed.

Ko Naing Linn Htet, a wa­ter­melon grower from Bago Re­gion, said that as far as he had heard Myan­mar wa­ter­melon that had reached China was still sell­ing well. Even if the cost of trans­port­ing wa­ter­melon to Muse rose from K80,000 per tonne to K100,000 it would be worth try­ing to con­tinue ex­ports, he added.

“But I can’t find a driver who dares to go to Muse for that price,” he said.

Those ex­port­ing non-per­ish­able goods are in a bet­ter po­si­tion.

“It doesn’t mat­ter for me be­cause I trade dry goods,” said one trader in the 105 Mile zone on Novem­ber 22, but added that even those ex­porters are pay­ing truck driv­ers by the day.

“Our goods have not been ex­ported yet, and we have four trucks loaded with goods. De­lays cost money,” he said. – Trans­la­tion by San Layy, Khine Thazin Han, Win Thaw Tar and Emoon

‘Traders dare not come to the trad­ing zone be­cause of the fight­ing.’

U Khin Maung Lwin Min­istry of Com­merce

Photo: Aung Myin Ye Zaw

A line of trucks make their way from Lasho to Muse in Jan­uary.

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