Despite Border Closures Mae Sot – Myawaddy Border Trades Earned USD $705.627 Million in the Last Three and a Half Months, Doubled Same Period for 2021

Despite the collapse of the country’s economy since the military coup on the 1st February, 2021 and devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, the military appointed State Administrative Council's Ministry of Commerce reported an increase in the net value of trade passing through the Thai border town of Mae Sot to Myawaddy in Karen State, Burma.

Citing the increase in both exports and imports through the Myawaddy – Mae Sot route, the Ministry of Commerce, under the control of SAC, reported trade reached USD$705.627 million in just three and a half months, from 1 October 2021 to 14 January 2022.

The report stated that the total trade value in the same period during the previous year was at USD $309.97 million, an increase of USD$ 405.657.

Traders in Myawaddy said it was generally expected trade would drop due to changes in policy causing some previously exempted imported products would now need to apply for an import license, but the increased demand for those products, increases in exports of agricultural products and CMP (cut-make-pack) garments contributed to the increase revenue of the Myawaddy-Mae Sot border trade.

Traders expected the volume of Myawaddy border trade would decline due to the Covid-19 pandemic, political instability, depreciation of the Myanmar currency, and trade policy changes, but trade is higher than 2021.

The Department of Trade and Commerce reported exports of Myanmar agriculture products – as beans, onions, chilies – and CMP garments from Myanmar to Thailand during the three months and a half period from 1 October 2021 to 14 January 2022 reached USD$ 269.845 million, exceeding last year’s estimated earnings by USD$ 70.776 million of the same period by USD$ 116.069 million.

The Department of Trade and Commerce reported the volume of imports had reached USD$ 435.782 million during the three and a half months, exceeding last year’s value of USD$ 239.194 million for the same period by USD$ 206.588 million.

Although Covid-19 restrictions imposed from March 21st 2020 had huge impacts on travel and trade through the Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge (Number 1) connecting Myawaddy-Mae Sot and as many as 30 illegal crossings along the Moei (Thaung Yin) River, officials from both countries agreed to allow trade through the No.(2) Friendship Bridge.

Myawaddy locals criticized the unfair trade where trucks and cars from Thailand were allowed to cross into not only Myawaddy but up to the trade zones while Burmese trucks and minivans buying local food were only allowed to go as far as the cargo gate on Thai side of the No. (2) Friendship Bridge and were unable to travel to Mae Sot.

A local Myawaddy trader said, “Myanmar officials, especially those in Myawaddy, are biased towards Thailand. Thai trucks were allowed to travel inside Myawayddy and up to the trade zone. Myanmar trucks were only allowed to go as far as the BCF [Border Control Facilities] Zone and the Cargo Gate on the Thailand side of the bridge. This is unfair. It makes it difficult for buyers and sellers from Myawaddy. We have coped with these conditions for more than a year. The officials in charge need to reconsider this.”

Myawaddy corn traders are now preparing to start exporting to Thailand from 1 February 2022 to August 31st as it is duty free. Burmese corn exporters use this period to send their corn to Thailand, as from 1st August to January 31st it has an exorbitant increase in tariff imposed on it to protect Thai grown corn.

A number of economic experts dismissed the SAC’s Ministry of Commerce optimistic trade report as a public relations exercise to make the military coup leaders appear as they are running the country successfully. They point to the huge drop in the value of the Kyat, rising consumer prices for basic foodstuffs and fuel costs tripling.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) estimates the poverty rate of Myanmar’s urban population will triple this year, with an estimated 25 million people being affected nationwide – a staggering 48.2 %, in poverty.

Fighting between the Burma Army and ethnic armed organizations is ongoing along the Kawkareik-Myawaddy Aisa High Way – the main access road for the Myawaddy-Mae Sot border trade route – is expected to impact the flow of goods from Myawaddy getting to other parts of Burma.

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