Signs of hope for pandemic-stricken economy

After months of stalled trade and a crippled tourism industry due to the COVID-19 epidemic, some economic sectors are showing signs of recovery even as others continue to slide.

Since January, land trade with China, Thailand and India has taken a serious downturn, with dealers of rice, corn, watermelons and seafood among the hardest-hit. But China has recently renewed its imports of Myanmar commodities, especially rice. In the past month, 40,000 tonnes of rice have passed through the border town of Muse, industry insiders told the Myanmar times. “The Chinese government has allowed official export through the border gate due to their demand. Permits are not needed,” the Times quoted Muse Rice Wholesale Center vice chair U Min Thein as saying. Min Thein added that around 1700 tons of rice currently pass through Muse each day. The recent boost in trade with China offers a glimmer of hope for Myanmar merchants who have been unable to move their products. Within Myanmar’s borders, pandemic fears have led to a surge in domestic spending, with consumers flocking to stores to stock up on non-perishable food, water and hygiene products like hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.

Despite these positive signs, the pandemic continues to imperil the economy on the whole. Though trade with China is up, exports in general remain down. The tourism industry has all but collapsed as the government imposes new travel restrictions against the hardest-hit countries. Domestically, preschools, daycares and cinemas have been closed. The government has also cancelled April’s week-long Thingyan (Myanmar new year) festival, the largest and most lucrative celebration of the year.

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