Round-table discussion on economics

39497521With an aim for the emergence of a market economy and enhancing economic development, the State Government has made concerted efforts to promote the socio-economic life of the people and communities in Myanmar. A round-table discussion by officials concerned from the Ministry of Commerce was held at MRTV in Nay Pyi Taw, on August 9. Following are comments made by U Nay Lin Zin, Joint General Secretary of Myanmar Rice Federation, U Khin Han, Chairman of Bayint Naung Commodity Market, and U Yan Naing Tun, Director General of the Department of Trade.
Q: In Myanmar, this year happens to be an intercalated year [in which a 13th month is inserted in the form of a second Waso month in the Myanmar calendar]. This year’s monsoon has brought about severe flash flood hazards, including heavy flooding and landslides, to many parts of the country, mainly due to incessant torrential rains. It was learnt that some 700,000 acres of paddy fields have been inundated, while 300,000 acres were destroyed due to the flooding. Can this severe damage affect the rice production? Could you explain more about the status of Myanmar’s rice export this year and the market conditions for rice?
U Nay Lin Zin: Regarding flash flood hazards, it is general common for us to suffer flood damage, especially in the years that have a second Waso month. But I think this situation is not as bad as the flooding that occurred in 2015. At that time, some 13 out of 15 states and regions were flooded and the export volume of rice declined by nearly one million tons, with an estimation of a total of 120,000 tons of rice being destroyed. The production of rice last year was 14 million tons. That’s why, if we compare the losses occurred last year we can say that there was not that much damage. As usual, the rising costs for rice are caused by flooding every year, and there are valid reasons that the local prices of rice, including Shwebo Paw San, Ayeyawady Paw San and Paw Kywe, have risen during the past month. There remain in stock some different varieties of rice that are not so popular. As a result, I think rice prices have remained stable and there won’t be a shortage of rice and increased prices due to the flooding. Myanmar has earned about US$1 billion from exporting over 3.6 million tons of rice over the past year, according to the Myanmar Rice Federation. The dollar has hit its highest level against the local currency so far, and we can see that rice prices in Thailand and Viet Nam dropped by US$50 per ton of rice, and they are also finding it hard to sell out in the local market. Thus, the amount of rice that will be exported next month is expected to reach that of last year. I think the export is expected to reach between 2 and 2.5 million of tons this year. Another thing is, the export of rice during this period is approximately less than 200,000 tons per month.
Q: Are the commodity prices rising higher in Myanmar? Could you discuss the current situation of commodities and the flow of the commodity prices at the Bayint Naung Commodity Market?
U Khin Han: The Bayint Naung Commodity Market is regarded as the lifeblood of basic commodity products in Myanmar. People should be familiar with the present situation of this market. The Bayint Naung Commodity Market is located in the northwestern part of Yangon, and it is the largest commodity trading market in Myanmar. The market’s area is 1200 acres, on which are located about 1,200 shop houses, including 150 wholesale shops for dried fish and prawns, 200 rice purchasing shops, 500 shops dealing in dried goods, together with 200 storage houses. It is learnt that the total number of trucks carrying the commodities every day is between 800 and 1,200. The timing for trading is different for different commodities. As for dried fish and prawns wholesale shops, the trading time is from early dawn to 11:30am. Onions, potatoes and other groceries are being sold the whole day. People from Sagaing, Mandalay and Magway regions come to buy the majority of the dried goods. People think that the commodity prices are getting higher due to the pay rise [of government employees] and the recently raised daily minimum wage. In my opinion, I do not think it is directly related to cause the rising prices. We also make necessary announcements regarding the daily commodity prices. The prices of onions had bounced back due to the high demand last year. The prices reached Ks 3,000 per viss [3.6lb] at that time. Cultivators have tried to grow more crops this year; unfortunately, business is not as good as they expected. We can make commodity speculations by making a guess of their flows at the Bayint Naung Commodity Market. As far as I know, there are a total of some 15 commodity purchasing centres in other regions. All of them have to monitor the commodity flow and effects at the Bayint Naung Commodity Market, to be able to know the current trend. What I would like to suggest people is that they should purchase household goods at the Bayint Naung Commodity Market, where they can get goods at reasonable prices.
Q: It is learnt that the government had made announcements to the effect that permit both foreign companies and Myanmar-foreign joint ventures to conduct domestic retail and wholesale businesses in the country. Regarding this permit, could you explain the responses received from foreign companies, and what kind of benefits will our country get due to the relaxation of these trading restrictions?
U Yan Naing Tun: As for the Ministry of Commence, efforts are being made to relax relevant rules and regulations, aiming to attract more foreign investment into the country and increasing job opportunities for people across the country. We have to adopt this relaxation systematically, according to procedures. Preparations were being made, since 2013, to grant foreign companies the permission of operating the retail and wholesale enterprises. Being a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and ASEAN, Myanmar has undertaken reforms to boost its economic reorientation in continuing on its path of reintegrating into the global economy.
Translated by Win Ko Ko Aung

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