Myanmar fisheries sector nears collapse as orders tumble

Myanmar’s fisheries sector will face its largest loss in history if demand does not pick up very soon, said U Myo Nyunt, secretary of the Myanmar Fisheries Products Processors & Exporters Association (MPEA).

“Exports have collapsed. All international orders have been cancelled and we have not received any new orders from the European Union (EU) since they are all locked down,” he told The Myanmar Times.

The EU and other western countries accounts for about 45 percent of Myanmar’s fisheries exports, while China and Thailand account for the remaining 55pc.

The drop in demand will affect businesses throughout the fisheries supply chain. “At first, those operating cold storage facilities did not have any income and some had to shut down. Now, factories are not allowed to open and jobs are dwindling,” said U Myo Nyunt.

Fishermen further up the value chain are suffering too. Without demand, more fishing vessels have been seen anchoring at Yangon’s ports and some fishermen have been forced to auction off their boats. “Normally, fishermen sell hundreds of tonnes of fish and prawns a day. But when the factories don’t operate, there are no buyers,” U Myo Nyunt said.

With losses mounting in April and May, the MPEA expects upstream fishing and aquaculture activities to grind to a halt from June to August. Consequently, even if factories are allowed to reopen, there will be a shortage of fisheries supplies for processing.

Importantly, the delays could disrupt the entire fishing season as fish farmers, who abide by fixed schedules such as for the farming of fish roe and fish breeding will not be able to carry out their activities according to plan.

As such, the MPEA is projecting the largest loss in history for the sector for the six months between March and August.

The industry is now calling on the government for more aid. U Myo Nyunt said: “Tourism operators and garment manufacturers are receiving government loans and aid from the EU as a result of COVID-19. But aquaculture and fisheries are not in the government’s list of sectors most impacted by the virus and we have not received EU subsidies even though we contribute significantly to exports.”

The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation has been notified of the disruptions to the fisheries industry. “We have been instructed to look into the changes in the fishing season this year and will give an answer after the experts have submitted their reviews and completed inspections,” said U Hla Htun, permanent secretary of the ministry.

Fisheries exports generate an average of US$700 million in revenue, according to the Ministry of Commerce. This includes border and maritime trade. Before COVID-19, the sector had been forecast to generate $750 million in export revenue in fiscal 2019-20. – Translated

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Source : Myanmar Times

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