Written by Published in Trade

Workers at a jade mining area in Hpakant, Kachin State Photo: Phyusin Linn/Mizzima
Taung Kyi, the secretary of the Gem Traders Association (Myitkyina), said that his group was advocating the establishment of a legal jade market in Kachin State capital Myitkyina.

“Slabs of jade are being unearthed in Hpakant but we are not permitted to transport them to Myitkyina [less than 100km],” he said. “I’m sad to say there is no jade market for locals even though the gems are produced in this region.”

The Traders group secretary said they have submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Mines to establish a local jade market, but have received no response.

He told Mizzima that currently most of the jade is exported to China via illegal routes, and that only companies doing joint ventures with the government and a handful of large firms are permitted to sell jade.

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The Myanmar kyat depreciated to 921.50 against the US dollar on Friday, a record low since the country's central bank put a managed float on the currency in April 2012.

“The kyat has hit a new low because of improvements in the American and Japanese economies,” Than Lwin, the deputy chairman of Kanbawza Bank, told Mizzima on Friday.

“As the US dollar and the [Japanese] yen are on the rise, there is an impact on our local currency,” he said.

Before the central bank set a managed float, the official exchange rate was fixed at six kyat to the dollar even though the US currency was sold on the black market for over 800 kyat.

Both the black market rate and the official rate stood at 860 kyat in December 2012. The official exchange rate stood at 865 kyat on March 1.

On March 14, the kyat depreciated to a record low of 890 to the dollar. The central bank then announced on March 19 that the exchange rate had stabilized after five decades of instability.

“I would have preferred if the currency rate had risen because of the central bank's regulations, instead of against rising economies. The central bank should implement a more regulatory framework,” Than Lwin said.

“But I do not think the exchange rate will reach 1,000 kyat per dollar in the short term.”

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Photo: jumbokedama / fllickr
The Myanmar Fruit and Vegetable Producers and Exporters Association announced last week that the country recently commenced exporting mangoes and watermelons to Singapore for the first time, according to a report on industry website Fruitnet.

An official is quoted as saying that three tonnes of mangoes were transported recently to the island state with more shipments planned depending on capacity.

Myanmar Fruit and Vegetable Producers and Exporters Association Chairman Soe Than Min Din compared Myanmar’s previous export of seedless watermelons to China by air, saying it was not as profitable as transporting fruit to Singapore by sea.

“Myanmar began seeking to expand into new export markets beyond China around three years ago,” the Fruitnet report by Emily French said. “Thus far it has targeted Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand for its produce, as well as participating in a number of international fruit festivals globally.”

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Sittwe market Photo: JBatOlingen / Flickr
Traders and merchants in Rakhine State told Mizzima recently that Myanmar-Bangladesh cross-border trade is in decline. They said that bilateral trade decreased by almost half in the main trade centers of Sittwe and Maungdaw over the last year due to a drop in fishery products and the general instability caused by the Rakhine-Rohingya conflict.

“Sittwe-Bangladesh border trade was US$15.336 million in the 2011-12 fiscal year, but it decreased to $7.250 million in 2012-13,” a spokesperson for the Sittwe border trade center said. “This was due to a scarcity of fishery products and regional instability.

“I cannot see much hope that bilateral trade will be restored to its old levels,” he said, adding that import and exports through Maungdaw had also fallen.

“Exports [from Maungdaw] were valued at $7.831 million in 2011-12. This year it’s $5.385 million,” he said. “Imports were $0.692, but have decreased to $0.531.”

Five companies trade across the Bangladeshi border via Maungdaw border trade center, he said. The main exports from Myanmar are fish products, prawns, slippers and cosmetics, while most frequent imports include cement, water pots and water distillation machines.

“The ethnic conflict in the Rakhine region is not the only reason for the decline,” said Nyi Chay, a representative of one of the five trading companies in Sittwe. “It is also because we do not have enough goods to export. Plums and tangerines are becoming scarce, and these are some of Sittwe’s main produce.”

Nyi Chay said he expected better cross-border business after tariffs were lifted on 152 different products on March 1, but such trade has not come to fruition.

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Bangkok Post

Thailand and Myanmar have agreed to open three more permanent border checkpoints to give a boost to economic development.

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Myanmar President Thein Sein agreed on the Myanmar-proposed initiative on the sidelines of the 22nd Asean Summit in Brunei which ended on Thursday.

Deputy government spokesman Phakdeeharn Himathongkham said Ms Yingluck thanked the Myanmar government for raising the issue.

The checkpoints are between Thailand's Three Pagodas Pass in Kanchanaburi and Myanmar's Phayatongsu town; Ban Nam Pu Ron in Kanchanaburi and Myanmar's Tiki town; and the Singkorn temporary checkpoint in Prachuap Khiri Khan and Myanmar's Mortong town, he said.

Mr Phakdeeharn said Ms Yingluck told Thein Sein that opening three more checkpoints would help strengthen ties between Thailand and Myanmar.

He said Ms Yingluck took the opportunity during her meeting to follow up an earlier request made by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul about Rohingya migrants.

He called for the Myanmar government to send officials to Thailand to investigate the Rohingya migrants being detained here.

Mr Surapong said during the Asean Foreign Ministers Meeting in Brunei this month that he had sought cooperation from his Myanmar counterpart Wunna Maung Lwin to help return about 2,000 detained Rohingya to Myanmar.

Wunna Maung Lwin had pledged to take them back if his officials found they truly came from Myanmar's Rakhine state.

Mr Phakdeeharn said the two leaders also discussed the progress of the Dawei deep-sea port development project after Thailand and Myanmar earlier set up a joint committee to monitor the project.

He said Ms Yingluck told Thein Sein that Thailand had finished drafting a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) shareholder agreement.

She said she would like the Myanmar side to consider it.

The agreement sets the environment of shareholder rights and regulations for the management and operational policies of the project.

Mr Phakdeeharn said the two countries agreed they would meet to further discuss finance and investment issues for the project and would invite Japan to join the talks next month.

At the Asean Summit, Ms Yingluck proposed the connectivity of the three Asean pillars - political-security, economic, and socio-cultural communities - through cultural activities and tourism to promote public interaction.

She also wants to push forward assistance in medicine, public health, and education.

This article was first published in the Bangkok Post on April 26, 2013.

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Japanese logistics giant Kamigumi Co Ltd has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Myanmar Agribusiness Public Corporation (Mapco) to facilitate the shipment of rice from major production points throughout Myanmar to Japan.

William Myint Maung, the manager of international business relations at Mapco, told Mizzima on Wednesday that Kamigumi will oversee the transport of rice from domestic production points to Yangon via railway and trucks traveling by road. From production points in the delta region, Kamigumi will deploy ships to reach Yangon.

The MoU comes in anticipation of Myanmar’s first shipment of rice to Japan in 45 years. The 5,000 metric ton shipment of high-quality (5 percent broken) emata rice will depart from Yangon Port to Nagoya on May 4.

Because Japan is self-sufficient in rice production and adheres to a strict minimum market access policy, the May 4 shipment is the only rice shipment scheduled from Myanmar to Japan. Mapco has not confirmed any further rice export to Japan and must wait for the Japanese government to assess its economic policy before proceeding.

Kamigumi, headquartered in Tokyo and registered in Sapporo, was founded in 1867. It employs 4,315 worldwide and is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange and Osaka Securities Exchange.

The privately-held Mapco shares the same board of directors with the Myanmar Rice Federation, a non-government affiliated rice body.

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