Fruit Growers’ Losses Mount Due to Muse Border Checkpoint Closure

By Myat Pyae Phyo 3 January 2019

MANDALAY—Myanmar melon exporters are suffering serious losses following authorities’ closure of a key border gate for fruit exports at the Mile 105 Muse border trade zone on the Myanmar-China border, traders told The Irrawaddy.

According to the Muse-based border traders, the Myanmar Army (or Tatmadaw) closed the Jin San Jiao Gate on the evening of Dec. 26 for security reasons.

Border traders and growers have sent a letter to authorities asking about the closure, but have had no response after one week, Ko Sai Min Thu Naing, director of the Kwa Nyo fruit brokerage in Muse, told The Irrawaddy.

“So far, we have not seen the government releasing a formal statement regarding this. We have sent a letter of request [for information] to the Commerce Ministry. But there has been no response,” U Ko Sai Min Thu Naing said.

The Irrawaddy was unable to contact the Commerce Ministry for comment about the gate closure.

Demand for melons and cantaloupes is currently at its peak level, and melon growers in Shan State are worried as their next harvest is due in February.

Over 1,000 trucks loaded with melons and cantaloupes transported to Muse from various parts of the country have been stranded on the Myanmar side since Dec. 27 following the closure of the gate.

Fruit trucks have been using the Pansai gate, which Chinese authorities re-opened on Dec. 28. However, the 10-mile road from Muse to the Pansai gate is just 8 feet wide, and is not suitable for 12-wheeled trucks.

Previously, around 500 trucks ferrying watermelons and cantaloupes traded at the Jin San Jiao gate daily. But the number has declined to around 200 now, as Chinese officials take longer to inspect Myanmar’s exports, Mandalay-Muse cargo transporters said.

“The government should in fact facilitate the smooth operation of such gates, which are important for the national economy. But it has been shut down and authorities have not explained the reason,” fleet manager U Zaw Myint Oo of Saw Yan Naing Mandalay-Muse cargo transport company told The Irrawaddy.

Due to the delays caused by traffic congestion at the border gate, growers’ losses are mounting.

“I feel like the government has ignored growers, though Myanmar’s economy is said to be based on agriculture. The government loses taxes and our losses increase daily,” said Ko Sai Min Thu Naing of Kwa Nyo fruit brokerage in Muse.

A fully loaded 12-wheeled truck of watermelons fetches around 7 million kyats, and the same amount of cantaloupe fetches over 10 million kyats at present market rates. Merchants complain that up to 75 percent of the fruit has spoiled due to the delays at the gate.

“The losses will only increase as time goes by. Some growers have taken loans from lenders to grow melons. They are having trouble repaying their loans. The growers have to shoulder the consequences alone,” melon grower Ko Khaing Zaw of Mandalay’s TadaU Township told The Irrawaddy.