China coronavirus: Watermelon, muskmelon exports plunge, prices drop by half

By Nyein Nyein

On account of the coronavirus outbreak, exports of watermelons and muskmelons to China have dropped, leading to prices plunging by half, said U Naing Win, chair of the Myanmar Watermelon and Muskmelon Producers and Exporters Association.
“At this time last year, 700 trucks of watermelons were seen at Muse gate. Now, trading is not going well, even if 200-300 trucks enter the border market. The effort will be in vain if China does not buy them. The local consumption is quite low, and so, the domestic market will not cover the current yield rate. Earlier, Thirimingala Market’s demand was 10 trucks per day. Now, only one truck of watermelons is being sold, and the situation is the same at Danyingon market. The weather is cool and other seasonal fruits such as tangerines and plums are abundant in the market. The consumption of watermelons and muskmelons is low, especially in the January to mid-February period. Growers are worried about the market situation owing to the Wuhan coronavirus,” said U Naing Win.
“The harvest season of watermelons and muskmelons is on now. Prior to the Chinese New Year holidays, China purchased about 700 truck loads of watermelons. Now, they are not even buying 300 truck loads. The price has dropped by half,” he said.
“Earlier, a watermelon truck was worth 40,000 Yuan. Now, the price has fallen drastically to 7,000 Yuan. The price of watermelons is ranging from 7,000-15,000 Yuan per tuck. Though the muskmelon price has dropped, it is not that low, ranging from 3,500-6,500 Yuan per ton,” said U Naing Win.
To tackle the problems faced by watermelon and muskmelon growers, the Yangon Region Chief Minister met with officials from the Myanmar Watermelon and Muskmelon Exporters and Producers Association.

Trucks loaded with watermelons wait for passage at the Muse 105 Mile Trade Zone . Photo : Thant Zin (Muse)
Trucks loaded with watermelons wait for passage at the Muse 105 Mile Trade Zone . Photo : Thant Zin (Muse)

The regional government will arrange a place if growers want to sell them at the Myanmar Ethnics Culture Fest, which will be held next month. The government will draft a long-term plan for growers, too.
“The Yangon market is not hopeful. Even 20 trucks of watermelons will not be sold. We cannot let the watermelons perish for no reason. We can only wish for the eradication of the infectious virus and for the border market to reopen. If there are other foreign markets, it will be good,” said Ko Zaw Min, an exporter to China.
“To penetrate other markets, we must seek help from the Trade Promotion Department under the Ministry of Commerce,” said U Naing Win.
“Other foreign markets have not proposed watermelon and muskmelon purchase. Myanmar’s watermelons are exported to Hong Kong through China. Therefore, the trade channel is blocked. Singapore buys only three or four containers. We would like to expand the market to Qatar and Dubai as they can offer a good price. But, there is no demand from them. The Trade Department needs to help traders link with foreign buyers,” he added.
Watermelons and muskmelons are considered export items to China and a large quantity of the fruits will be harvested until May-end.
Myanmar exports more than 800,000 tons of watermelons and 150,000 tons of muskmelons every year. At present, only 200,000 tons of watermelon and a small volume of muskmelons have been shipped to external markets. (Translated by Ei Myat Mon)

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