Rising tide also swamps Yangon firms

While Yangon may not have felt the floods directly, companies and consumers are still bearing the economic cost of rising prices and falling business.

In normal times, importing and distributing products is a lucrative business, but now, many people have stopped buying – while commodity prices have also risen back in Yangon.

Basic foods like rice and vegetables come partly from the flood area, and nearly everything is more expensive, said Ma Win, a Yankin township rice seller.

“On Facebook, people claim the price has not actually risen, but as far as I can tell the prices are rising,” she said. “It’s costing me about K4000 to K8000 more to buy a bag of rice.”

The highest-quality rice, called shwebo, is selling for K48,000 a 108 pound-bag, while myaungmya rice is now selling at K40,000, and was previously K36,000 before the floods.

“We understand farms have been destroyed because of the flooding, and are afraid because it’s the main food source for our country,” she said.

While 1.29 million acres of farmland have been inundated, according to the latest government statistics, officials from the Myanmar Rice Federation have sought to reassure the public there is enough of the staple crop to see Myanmar through to the harvest – and if not, they may import it.

It is not only the essentials that have risen in price.

Betel chewers are facing hefty increases, as wholesale betels prices are surging as farms have been hard-hit.

Before the flood, 1 viss (1.633 kilograms) of betel cost K9500 from wholesalers. With the disaster, the price has continually climbed, first to K12,000 and now to K15,000, said Ko Pauk Si, a betel seller who plies the street with a cart.

His wholesaler sources from Nyaungtone in Ayeyarwady Region and also from Bago Region. The areas have been hard-hit by floods, and entire farms have been destroyed, he said.

Prices are going up, but the market is competitive, with chewers particularly price-sensitive.

“In Yangon, there are shops in every street, and they all rely on this business,” he said.

His latest market intelligence, from his wholesaler Ko Min, indicates betel may continue to rise in price.

Betel leaf is the main crop in Nyaung Tone, though farmers were not able to harvest the current crop before the floods – and now the betel is useless, said U Thein, a resident of Htike Wa Gyi village in Nyaung Tone township.

With the land underwater, farmers cannot farm, he said. Many are worried that when the water recedes, the land will also be unusable.

“We don’t have time for another betel harvest, and our whole farms are covered with water, and our money is lost,” he said.

U Thein added there is little that can be done to protect the land, and that protecting his family comes first.

“We are afraid for our future,” he said.

Ma Than Than Oo, a vegetable seller in Yangon’s Thingangyun township, said her products are also much more expensive.

Much of what she sources comes from Ayeyarwady Region, “and now the goods are rare in the market and prices are huge”, she said.

Shops are having difficulty sourcing the vegetables they need, but again, consumers are noticing any attempts to increase prices.

Many Yangon businesses have carved out strong niches selling goods in rural areas, though they are also facing problems.

Ma Pa Pa is a South Okkalapa township-based shoe maker and seller, though her primary market is in Ayeyarwady Region.

Her sales to the area have halted, and instead she is only selling through her small Yangon shop. Left with an excess supply, she has decided to donate many pairs of shoes, though she is still worried about her bottom line.

Other entrepreneurs have also been forced to stop sales. Ma July, who sells mobile handsets and accessories, said she also has been forced to stop selling products in Ayeyarwady Region.

“Who will buy these products now?” she said. “We’ve had to stop our business.”

Source: Myanmar Times

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