Myanmar watermelon sales checked by realities in China

2016-07-28 08:57Global Times Editor: Li Yan

Selling season, price and weight impact ambitions: Chinese vendors

Despite Myanmar farmers' ambition to significantly increase watermelon exports to China, a hot-selling item in some Chinese cities in spring, Chinese vendors said the sales are held in check by factors such as the fruit's season and size.

A fruit vendor surnamed Ma told the Global Times on Wednesday that he sells watermelons imported from the Southeast Asian country in a farmers' market in Chuxiong development district, Southwest China's Yunnan Province.

"The watermelons imported from Myanmar have a good taste and I sold around 3 tons in 2015," Ma said, noting these watermelons sold well in March and April.

China has become the largest market for Myanmar watermelons, according to a report posted on the Ministry of Commerce website.

The report cited a July 11 report by the Yadanabon, a state-run Burmese-language newspaper based in Mandalay.

Watermelons accounted for a dominating share in Myanmar's export of fruits and vegetables and generated the most foreign exchanges, the report said, citing a Myanmar official.

However, after April, homegrown watermelons hit the market and compete with melons from Myanmar, Chinese vendors said.

"Only one-third of the vendors in our market sell watermelons from Myanmar at present," Ma explained.

The sales volume of imported watermelons is only one-tenth that of domestic watermelons, he said.

A businesswoman surnamed Duan in Ruili, Yunnan Province, told the Global Times on Wednesday that her company imports watermelons from Myanmar only in winter and spring. Ruili is a key trading town on the China-Myanmar border.

In July, imported watermelons don't sell well because domestic watermelons are entering the market, Duan said.

A citizen surnamed Liu in Chuxiong, Yunnan Province, said he prefers to buy domestic watermelons due to their cheaper price and convenience to take away, store and consume, adding that watermelons from Myanmar are enormous in size.

"As far as I know, the price of local watermelons is around 2 yuan ($0.30) per kilogram while imported ones cost 4 yuan per kilogram," Liu told the Global Times Wednesday, noting that the weight of local watermelons is about 3 kilograms while ones imported from Myanmar are 9 kilograms on average.

Ambitious plan

The new Myanmar government has rolled out an ambitious plan to triple its exports to the world in the next five years.

The country aims to boost its export volume three times higher through growth in the agricultural sector, the Xinhua News Agency reported in April, citing Myanmar's Minister for Commerce Than Myint.

Fruit merchants in Myanmar plan to export a total of 600,000 tons of watermelon and muskmelon to China in the 2016-17 fiscal year, which began April 1 and ends on March 31, 2017, according to media reports in June.

In the previous fiscal year, Myanmar exported 528,960 tons of watermelon to China worth $56.45 million, according to data from the Department of Commerce of Yunnan Province.

Watermelon and muskmelon accounted for more than 65 percent of the revenue Myanmar gained from fruit exports for the year, showed data from Myanmar's commerce ministry.

A Guangdong-based customs agent surnamed Li told the Global Times on Wednesday that their company avoided providing fruit import services because of China's strict supervision on the safety and quality of imported foods and fruits, as well as the fact that these goods can easily go bad after just a few days of transportation.

In November 2015, China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) sealed a deal to upgrade their free trade area, which originally took effect in 2010. These deals facilitated the trade of goods and services between China and Myanmar, a member of ASEAN.

According to a report by the Kunming-based Chunchengwanbao newspaper in April, custom clearance facilitation measures, such as documentation management for overseas production bases by quarantine authorities, has greatly reduced the time Myanmar watermelons spent at border checkpoints.

While watermelons would have been stopped for four to five days at checkpoints before, it now only takes two to three days for the watermelons to be transported from farms in Myanmar to markets in Kunming, capital of Yunnan Province, the report said.

Myanmar's export value stood at over $11.04 billion in the 2015-16 fiscal year, a slight decline from $12.4 billion in 2014-15. The most exported items are agricultural products, according to Xinhua.

China and the U.S. are the world's largest watermelon importers. Major exporters include Spain, Mexico, Vietnam and Myanmar.


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