Trade Troubles on the Chinese Border

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 27 July 2016

RANGOON — Due to heavy rains in northern Shan State and increased scrutiny from Chinese officials, Burmese traders who typically sell unsanctioned goods in China have been stuck in the border town of Muse, unable to offload their products, sources said.

Weeks of rain have raised the Ruili River, which divides Burma and China, to a dangerous level. Rice, bean, sugar and corn exporters—who have transported their goods illegally via truck to China in the past—are now attempting river crossings, said Muse-based fruit exporter Sai Khin Maung.

According to Min Ko Oo, the secretary of the Myanmar Beans and Pulses Traders Association, the Chinese government has recently undertaken harsher scrutiny of exporters, causing illegal traders to ship their goods via ferry—a dicey method due to the intense rains.

Rice, corn, bean and sugar traders are hesitant to travel to Muse because of uncertainty on the Chinese side, but people who export legal products are still making the trip, traders said.

According to the Ministry of Commerce, Burma has 16 border trading posts. More than 1,500 trucks cross the Muse border into China  daily during normal trading periods; however, due to the rains and the stricter control measures, that number has been significantly reduced. According to sources on Muse’s 105-mile border trade gate, fewer than 500 trucks now cross each day.

“Traders are waiting to see what happens before going to Muse. Because major export item trading is almost at a standstill now in China, the trade volume will be lower than usual this month,” a Muse border gate source said.

He added that the resurgence of trade would depend on weather conditions and control measures on the Chinese side.

According to the Ministry of Commerce, trade volume in Muse this year is down US$81 million from last year’s volume for the April to July fiscal quarter.