The export value to Bandaladesh through the Maungtaw border trade camp, which was opened on 24th December after shutting down following violent attacks in November and October, has reached a volume worth US$ 0.492 million in the first 17 days of January.
The camp saw exports resume on 1 January with a flow of fishery products, foodstuff and products for beauty salons.
“Most of the export products to Bangladesh are dried fish,” said U Khin Kyaw Myint, In-charge of the Maungtaw trade camp.
But with no imports from Bangladesh to Maungtaw, the price of electronics, clothing and household utensils are rising at Maungtaw Market, he added.
Recent armed attacks on northern Rakhine State prompted closure of all border gates with Bangladesh for more than two months, causing financial hardships for local shrimp and prawn farmers and merchants, according to officials from the saltwater prawn and shrimp market.
Local products such as dried fish and shrimp, which can be easily transported, were traded via Sittway. But export of products such as bamboo to Bangladesh came to a complete halt.
Bangladesh buys most of the aquacultured prawn and marine shrimp from Maungtaw and regions nearby.
Bangladesh has been purchasing saltwater prawn from Maungtaw region for years, merchants said, and the sudden halt to the commerce is unwelcome.
Last year, the volume of saltwater prawn along the Maungtaw border trade route reached 286 tonnes, resulting in an income of US$2million.
Similarly, there were exports earning about US$4.3m from the sale of fishery products including mud crabs, saltwater fish and various kinds of fried fish, according to the district fishery department. There were about 15,000 acres of saltwater prawn farms in Maungtaw prior to the armed attacks. Depots received several thousand viss of prawn daily. That figure has now been reduced by half, officials said.
Meanwhile, the Maungtaw District Fishery Department is planning to expand aquaculture businesses to villages in the district as part of efforts for assisting in socio-economic development in the area.
Under the plan, five fish ponds each in 96 villages in Maungtaw District along with low-interest loans will be granted to villagers through banks, according the Maungtaw District Fishery Department.
The department plans to spend more than Ks3.6 billion on digging fish ponds in the villages.
While the number of saltwater prawn ponds has reached more than 100,000 in Rakhine State, the number of freshwater fish ponds was less than 100, according to the department.
The number of freshwater fish ponds in Buthidaung has increased recently from 100 to more than 300, while Maungtaw has just around 100 ponds.
“The fishery department department has asked permission from its ministry to open five more hatchery farms in Maungtaw District, which set its target of earning US$7.5 million from exporting fishery products this year, which would be an increase from the US$ 7.3 million earned last year.
Zin Oo and Ko Min