Market Prices Increase Amid Shan State Clashes

By Myat Pyae Phyo 25 November 2016

The retail prices of Chinese goods in Mandalay’s Zay Cho Market, the biggest wholesale and retail market in Mandalay, have increased 10 percent since the Sino-Burma trade flow was disrupted by clashes in northern Shan State last weekend, according to retailers of Chinese goods at the market.

“Because we can’t import goods from Muse, we have to sell the existing stock at higher prices. We’re only selling wholesale to regular customers currently,” said Ma May Myat Zaw, owner of Win clothing shop, which sells Chinese clothing at Mann Myanmar Plaza in Zay Cho Market.

“We’ve suffered a lot as the trade route was disrupted in the high season,” she lamented, referring to the seasonal rise in demand for China’s blankets and sweaters as the cold season begins in Burma.

The Mandalay-Muse trade route, the major route for Sino-Burma border trade, was largely disrupted when the “Northern Alliance” of four ethnic armed groups—the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and Arakan Army (AA)—launched a joint offensive in northern Shan State on Nov. 20.

Chinese goods account for more than 70 percent of the commodities sold at major wholesale markets in Mandalay including Zay Cho and Tike Tan Gyi markets.

“The yuan has not been stable because of US dollar appreciation. What’s worse is that the clashes in Muse force us to sell [Chinese goods] at higher prices because merchants are also supplying them at higher prices,” said Ma Sandar Kyi, owner of a dried flower shop in Zay Cho Market.

Five days after the Sino-Burma trade route was disrupted, merchants are seeking to transport good by the Bhamo-Mandalay water route.

“The customs office has been closed since clashes broke out. Some vehicles are waiting for the customs department to check the imports and vehicles that are on the way might have to hide until they see how the situation plays out,” said Daw Tin Tin Aye, owner of a plate shop in Zay Cho.

The Mandalay-Muse trade route experienced disruption during the pro-democracy uprising in 1988 as well as other previous clashes, but the situation was not as dire in the past, shop owners said.

They also predicted that the continued disruption of the trade route would eventually impact markets in the commercial capital Rangoon as well.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.