Foreign trade exceeds US$ 30 billion and set a new record even before the end of the fiscal year

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Farmers thresh crops using an automated machine. Not many farmlands have access to modern technology meaning farmers cannot keep up with the high demand for rice in Myanmar and Southeast Asia.  Photo: Phoe Kwar

The government and the people are striving in harmony in all sectors for Myanmar, a developing country to reach the status of a developed one. Foreign trade is much supportive for national economic progress. Hence, the Trade Department of the Ministry of Commerce is applying various means to widen reliable markets, produce marketable goods, facilitate exports and ensure rapid growth of the foreign trade sector in accord with the aims adopted by the ministry.
Myanmar has maritime trade with global countries as well as border trade with neighbouring countries. The country hit a new foreign trade level even before the end of the fiscal year 2017-2018 exceeding the USD 30 billion mark as the Ministry of Commerce is cooperating and coordinating with all stakeholders including relevant ministries, UMFCCI and sister associations, entrepreneurs and farmers.
Myanmar’s trade volume for fiscal year 2017-2018 (from April to March 2) was over USD 30 billion – over USD 13 billion worth of exports and over USD 17 billion worth of imports. According to the official list, the country could export USD 2 billion more and import another USD 2 billion more this fiscal.
The country exported US$ 2784 million worth of agricultural good this year, of which the main items were over 1.2 million tons of beans and pulses valued at US$ 807 million, over 3.2 million tons of rice and broken rice valued at US$ 1035 million, over 0.136 million ton of rubber valued at US$ 179 million, one million ton of fruits valued at US$ 169 million and over 1.3 million tons of corn valued at US$ 272 million. Up to now, the country could exported 1.7 million more rice and broken rice than the previous year, earning US$ 545 million more. It is a new record in the 70-year period. The country also has exported over 0.2 million more tons of corn and earning US$ 48 million more.
Up to 2 March 2018, the country exported over US$ 3 billion worth of natural gas. Gas is the top item of the export list. Garment export stood second with a value of US$ 2.332 billion.
Up to 2 March 2018 Myanmar exported over 500,000 tons of marine products valued at US$ 634 million. It could export about 60000 more tons than the previous fiscal, earning US$ 114 million more. The main items are over 350,000 tons of fishery products valued at US$ 360 million, over 18,000 tons of prawns valued at US$ 67 million, over 18,000 tons of crabs valued at US$ 69 million, over 9000 tons of eels valued at US$ 28 million, and about 100,000 tons of other marine products valued at US$ 108 million.
This fiscal year’s rise in the marine exports came alongside the surge in livestock products. This fiscal saw livestock product exports reaching over US$ 44 million, which is US$ 35 million more than the previous fiscal. The rise in the livestock exports is a result of the ministry’s announcement released on 9-10-2017. The announcement permits buffalo and cow owners to export their goods through legal channel with the aim of replacing the illegal trade with legal trade, ensuring income generation for farmers and serving their interest. After the announcement, the country could export 2500 heads of sheep valued at US$ 0.045 million, 1863 heads of buffalo valued at US$ 2.442 million, and 13976 heads of cattle valued at US$ 16.771 million.

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Sifting and sorting the grain is still done manually in many farms in Myanmar. Photo: Phoe Kwar

This fiscal saw mineral exports reached US$ 1414 million, which is US$ 503 million more than the previous fiscal. The main items were mineral and ore whose export value was US$ 614 million and jade exports valued at US$ 439 million.
The country imported US$ 16.975 billion worth of goods in fiscal year 2017-2018, up US$ 1.6 billion from the previous year’s US$ 15.335 billion. The main items were cars and parts valued at US$ 1445 million, machines and parts valued at US$ 1121 million, steel and construction materials valued at US$ 655 million, phones and accessories valued at US$ 394 million, oil products valued at US$ 3295 million, plastic products valued at US$ 568 million, chemical fertilizers valued at US$ 295 million, chemical fibers valued at US$ 239 million, medicines valued at US$ 483 million. These items were imported in line with the national requirement.
More Oil products including diesel, petrol and airplane fuel, airplane parts, machines and parts, chemical fibers and medicines were imported this year than the previous year. In fact, these items are essential requirements for the nation, important raw materials of SMEs, and healthcare requirements for the people.
The Ministry of Commerce relaxed the regulations for export and import licenses and reduced HS Code lines of the Negative List to just 4818. It is inviting advices from the related departments and organizations to further lessen the number of lines.
The ministry applied all necessary means to facilitate trade and import and export processes within the legal framework. It is drawing the Safeguard Law on Increased Import and the Anti-dumping and Countervailing Law in accord with the WTO procedures to protect the local manufacturers as imports are growing annually.
The e-Payment system was introduced in 2017 for all cash transaction with the government through the Myanmar Citizens Bank. Now the MPU-Myanmar Payment Union has been initiated in Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon since 19 June 2017. Beginning 1 September 2017 the MPU system was adopted at Muse and Myawady border trade zones. Plans are under way to introduce the system in all other trade zones.
Whatever coordinated efforts have been made for the facilitation of trade there remain challenges and difficulties. They include climate, natural disasters, rise in production cost, lack of quality strains, rise in transport cost, weakness in value-added goods, dependence on international markets and demand, and lack of modern production methods.
The rising logistic cost is hampering the country from standing shoulder to shoulder with the neighbouring in the supply chain. There are also port problems. The government in office is striving in all sectors for all-round development of the country. It formed the Private Sector Development Committee with Vice-President at the helm. The committee is coordinating with the ministries in finding ways to develop the private businesses.
The current government is striving to boost foreign trade. In so doing, it is coordinating with the relevant ministries, organizations, wholesales centres, business companies, farmers, cementing bilateral cooperation with the trade partners, sending trade missions, finding new markets, and reducing trade regulations. Thanks to all these endeavours, bilateral foreign trade has exceeded USD 30 billion even before the end of the fiscal year, up USD 4 billion from the previous fiscal year.


Translation: TMT

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