The deal was initially signed last year after China imposed restrictions on its imports of maize. In search of new markets for its maize, Myanmar negotiated a deal with Thailand.
“The timeframe for the exports of Myanmar maize to Thailand ended in August,” said U Khin Maung Lwin, assistant secretary of the Ministry of Commerce.
Before the imposition of restrictions on maize imports, China had been a major market for Myanmar maize.
Since last year, Thailand has been able to fill gap in demand for locally produced maize. According to Ministry of Commerce statistics, Myanmar was able to export 600,000 tonnes of maize to Thailand while the agreement was in place.
However, the exports to Thailand have now ended with the expiration of the agreement in August, U Khin Maung Lwin said.
“We were seeking an alternative market for our maize so we signed the deal with Thailand, but the Thai’s stipulated a period up to August this year because this is when their own maize harvest season was expected to begin. We believe several truck loads of maize were sent to Thailand on September 4, but this was just a fraction compared with when the agreement was still valid,” he said.
The Thailand-Myanmar border gate at Myanmar side of Myawaddy town, Karen State. Photo – EPA
For the current fiscal year, which expires at the end of this month, the country generated a record US$1.5 million in revenue from maize exports, with the No.1 buyer being Thailand. Some maize was still exported to China as well, according to the Ministry of Commerce.
“The exports increased substantially this year compared to the same period in last year thanks to the exports of nearly 130,000 tonnes of maize to Thailand,” U Khin Maung Lwin said. The Ministry of Commerce has already asked Thailand to renew the maize export agreement, he added.
This comes at a time when industry watchers are pushing for more border and regional trade to take place via Thailand in the wake of disruptions at the Myanmar-China border due to skirmishes between armed groups and the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military).
Moving ahead, Myanmar should also consider exporting more of its agriculture products such as rice, nuts, beans and nuts via the Thai border, as well as further into the region such as to countries such as Malaysia via Thailand, said Daw Thin Thin Myat, chair of Myawaddy Border Traders Association. Currently, Myanmar exports goods to Laos and Vietnam via Thailand.
At the moment, export volumes to Thailand at the Myawady border are much lower than import volumes from Thailand, said Daw Thin Thin Myat. Between October 1, 2018 and August 16, 2019, exports from Myanmar to Thailand totaled US$181 million, while imports from Thailand to Myanmar totalled US$648 million. As such, more should be done to raise exports to Thailand, she said.