Coronavirus affects border trade

China is restricting travel in an attempt to curb the novel coronavirus outbreak, and the measures have dented cross-border trade with Myanmar. U Min Thein, Vice Chairman of the Muse Rice Wholesale Center, told The Irrawaddy that “95 percent of business activity has halted” in the border town of Muse, Myanmar’s busiest land trade hub with China. “Rice exports to China have stopped completely. We had to let all the workers go back home,” he continued.

China is the biggest buyer of Myanmar agricultural goods, especially rice, corn, watermelons and seafood. New travel restrictions designed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (the death toll of which recently passed 1,100) have interrupted supply chains throughout the country. The economic impact is being felt throughout Myanmar. The Irrawaddy reported that in Ayeyarwady Region, over 200 crab farms have temporarily closed, leaving 30,000 people without work.

Tourism, as well, has taken a major hit since the start of the outbreak in early January, with hundreds of flights from China cancelled. The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism also recently suspended a successful visa-on-arrival scheme for Chinese tourists. Border trade in Muse also stalled last August following renewed fighting in Shan State between the Myanmar army and the Northern Alliance of ethnic armed groups.

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