Unofficial Chinese demand for Myanmar’s sugar rises

A man works on a sugarcane farm in Thua-Thien Hue Province. Photo by Shutterstock/Saigon85. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.


NAY PYI TAW, Mar 17, 2020, Myanmar Times. An estimated 50,000 tonnes of sugar that piled up at the Muse 105th Mile trading area over December have been exported via unofficial routes to China, local sugar merchants say, Myanmar Times reported.

“The Chinese government doesn’t officially allow sugar imports from Myanmar, but about 20,000 to 30,000 bags of sugar regularly make it into China via unofficial routes. And sugar prices in China have been going up with demand,” said U Min Thein, deputy chair of the Muse Rice Sales Centre, when contacted by The Myanmar Times.

Border trade in Muse had almost come to a standstill for almost a month due to the coronavirus outbreak in China. However, starting from the second week of February, demand in China began rising again and and exports of melons and sugar began slowly creeping up.

“In early February, one bag of sugar was 115 yuan [K23,000] and it has now risen to 140 yuan. This is an increase of around 21 percent. With that kind of profit on the table, about one million bags of sugar, or about 50,000 tonnes, that had piled up in ware houses in Muse in December is now almost out of stock,” U Min Thein continued.

For now, only fluctuations in the price sugar have been seen since the outbreak began. However, if prices continue rising more sugar will cross the border into China. Demand for other products from Myanmar is also likely to rise,” said U Win Htay, vice chair of the Myanmar Sugar and Cane Related Products Association.

“We are only exporting the what we have available at the Muse 105th Mile trading area and stocks are tightening. Some have traders still have stocks in Lashio and some other areas, but I don’t know the exact volume. The government is saying there is no stock anymore, but traders near the border are saying they have some in warehouses. China does not officially import sugar from Myanmar, but there is demand in their country now so they appear to be ignoring the unofficial trade,” U Win Htay said.

According to trade officials, the country currently has 25pc to 30pc of sugar stock left from last year’s sugar cane crop. The price of sugar in the local market is about K870 to K880 per viss (1.63 kilogrammes).

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