Burma’s Imports Continue to Outpace Exports in Q1

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 17 July 2015

RANGOON — Burma’s export volume rose slightly in the first quarter of the 2015-16 fiscal year compared with the same period last year, but failed to keep pace with increasing imports in an indication that the weakening of the country’s currency in recent months has failed to curtail a growing trade deficit.

In the quarter from April 1 to June 30, exports totaled US$2.7 billion, compared with $2.5 billion over the same period in 2014-15, Ministry of Commerce data show.

“It has increased about $220 million this year compare to last year same period,” said Win Myint, director of the Ministry of Commerce’s Trade Promotion Department.

But the country’s imports have continued to outpace exports, rising to $4.6 billion in the first quarter compared with $4.1 billion over the same period last year.

Win Myint said that with Burma benefitting from growing foreign and local investment, the trade deficit is likely to persist as raw materials are shipped in from abroad.

“As there is more investment, [there will be] more imported items, but we also expect to export more natural gas, not only to Thailand but also to China, and garments and some value-added manufacturing products,” he said, adding that the government expects exports to total $7.3 billion in the current fiscal year.

Maung Aung, senior economist at the Ministry of Commerce, said the government is trying to promote exports to keep pace with the rising import volume.

“Because the US dollar exchange rate is increasing these days, export items have more potential in the market. For example, rice, beans and pulses and corn are major [export] items at the moment,” he said.

“We won’t limit imported items, even though it is gradually increasing. We’re expecting that the import volume will keep increasing because as many special economic zones are operating now, they will need more imported material for development,” Maung Aung said.

He added that the government expects total trade volume to increase this year to about $29 billion, up from about $28 billion in 2014-15.

Burma’s main imports are electronics, agriculture-based equipment, automobiles, refined oil products, processed foods and machinery, while the country’s biggest exports are commodities like rice, timber, jade and gems, oil and gas, and beans and pulses.

The major export items from Burma are typically natural gas, rice and other agricultural and maritime products.