Muse-based rice traders are hopeful that the Year of the Sheep will improve their fortunes. Rice exports to China have plummeted to almost nothing from peaks of 2000 tonnes a day following a series of raids conducted by Chinese customs on allegedly illegal rice importers on the Chinese side of the border.
The Muse commodity exchange centre is closed for Chinese New Year from February 18 to 25. said Muse-base rice trader U Min Thein. “We hope trade will improve after the festival. We’re optimistic.”
The customs raids carried out between September and November were followed by a respite. But since the end of January, the raids have resumed with particular severity, traders say. One of the country’s leading rice exporters, who asked not to be named, said, “This time, the customs went looking for imported Myanmar rice in the rice mills and warehouses in Ruili. They arrested some Chinese traders who had imported rice from Myanmar. This is worse than before.”
He added that the crackdown had blocked exports of rice from Ayeyarwady, Bago, Sagaing, Yangon and Mandalay regions. “Over a 10-day period, about 1 million rice bags were blocked in Muse. We have no idea what will happen next,” he said.
On the other hand, the Myanmar and Chinese governments have been working since the middle of last year to formalise the rice trade between them. The two sides signed a Memorandum of Understanding last September, and the Myanmar Rice Federation has designated nine companies that will register to export high-quality rice officially to China, perhaps as early as the end of April or early May.
The federation says it expects to export at least 1 million tonnes of rice to China officially in 2015.
In 2013-2014, Myanmar exported 800,000 tonnes of rice to China through Muse.
Source: Myanmar Times