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MoPFI extends exemption period for withholding tax on exports

The Ministry of Planning, Finance and Industry has been exempting tax barriers for the businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The exemption period for withholding tax on exports will be extended up to 30 April 2021, according to its notification dated 19 March. The MoPFI earlier granted relief on a two per cent withholding tax on exports between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021. At present, the negative impacts of the pandemic are exacerbating, and so, the withholding tax will be extended until 30 April 2021.

Moreover, international trade transactions cannot be done during the meantime amid the closure of private banks. The Trade Department under the Ministry of Commerce notified on 3 March that exporters and importers do not require to seek licences for 37 HS code lines for exports and 72 lines for imports between 8 March and 9 April 2021 to facilitate the trade. Export items with licence exemption include onion, garlic, rice, broken rice, raw sugar, refined sugar, natural rubber and cotton.

While the exemption covers the following import goods; sliced fish (salmon and tuna), flour, soybean seed, palm oil, food commodity, cement, gasoline, diesel, pharmaceuticals, fertilizer and lubricant. However, tax cut and licence exemption will not tackle the trade slowdown amid the current political changes, an exporter shared his opinion. Regardless of maritime trade disruption, border trade with China and Thailand remained strong. Withholding tax exemption will help smooth border trade businesses, a trader from Muse said.

Source: The Global New Light of Myanmar

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Maritime trade drop by $3.76 bln in current FY

THE value of Myanmar’s maritime trade for the period between 1 October and 13 March in the 2020-2021 financial year sank to US$9.06 billion, a drastic drop of over $3.76 billion compared to the year-ago period, according to the Ministry of Commerce. While maritime exports were valued at $3.67 billion, imports were registered at $5.38 billion. Compared to the same period in the 2019-2020 budget year, imports fell by $2.4 billion, while exports decreased by $1.34 billion. Meanwhile, the value of trade through the border this FY was estimated at $4.99 billion, a decrease of
$66.65 million as against a year-ago period.

Both sea trade and border trade dropped amid the coronavirus impacts. The neighbouring countries tightened border security and limited the trading time to contain the spread of the virus. Pandemic-induced container shortage pushed up the freight rates to almost triple in Myanmar, causing delays for traders. Additionally, according to the Myanmar Mercantile Marine Development Association, some ocean liners suspended cargo transport from Myanmar. The halt of ocean liners will undoubtedly affect the maritime trade. The cargo transport will double or triple if we conduct the trade with small ships, said an official of the association.

The country’s total external trade reached $11.987 billion, which plunged from $14.3 billion recorded in a year-ago period. Myanmar’s sea trade generated $26 billion from an overall trade value of $36 billion in the last FY2019-2020, the Ministry of Commerce’s statistics indicated. Myanmar exports agricultural products, fishery products, minerals, livestock, forest products, finished industrial goods, and other products. At the same time, it imports capital goods, consumer goods, and raw industrial materials. The country currently has nine ports involved in sea trade. Yangon Port is the main gateway for Myanmar’s maritime trade. It includes the Yangon inner terminals and the outer Thilawa Port.

Source: The Global New Light of Myanmar

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Myanmar mineral exports down by $555 mln over five past months

The value of Myanmar’s mineral exports has drastically fallen to US$495.9 million as of 13 March in the current financial year 2020-2021 since 1 October. It reflects a severe drop of $555 million against a year-ago period, the Ministry of Commerce’s data indicated. The mineral exports hit over $1 billion in the corresponding period of last FY. The coronavirus impacts led to the slump in mineral exports this FY. The heightened COVID-19 measures also shut down the events like gem emporium and expo last year, a trader said. So far, excavation of over 1,250 mining blocks has been permitted on a manageable, small, medium, and large scale, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation.

Due to the limited extraction of natural resources, exports of forest products and minerals had dropped significantly in the previous years. Permits for mining blocks were suspended in 2016. However, after a period of two years, Myanmar’s mining sector has now been opened to local and foreign investors, according to the ministry. Within two years of implementing the Myanmar Mines Law, the Mines Department has approved more than 140 out of 3,000 proposed mining blocks. Many more blocks are to be granted the permit. The Myanmar Mines Law was enacted on 24 December 2015. However, the law came into force when the rules were issued on 13 February 2018. The ministry undertakes the screening process of the proposals for medium and largescale mining blocks.

As per the regulatory changes in 2018, regional and state governments are given the power to process applications for artisanal and small-scale mining blocks. Under the new regulations, foreign firms can invest in large blocks covering up to 500,000 acres (about 202,000 hectares). In contrast, local firms can invest in all kinds of blocks. Investors can seek a permit to mine minerals such as gold, copper, lead and tin. The licences cover prospecting, exploration, and production. Myanmar’s mineral exports have shown a marked increase in the previous FY2019-2020, touching $1.87 billion, an increase of $405.48 million compared with the year-ago period, according to data from the Ministry of Commerce. In the FY2018-2019, mineral exports were pegged at just $1.465 billion. Myanmar’s mineral products constitute 10 per cent of overall exports. About 80 per cent of mineral products are shipped to external markets through sea trade. At the same time, 20 of them are sent to neighbouring countries through border trade channels.

Source: The Global New Light of Myanmar

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Fishery exports plunge to $380.65 mln in 2020-2021FY

EXPORT earnings from the fisheries sector during the period between 1 October and 5 March in the financial year 2020-2021 touched a low of US$380.65 million, a decrease of $47.8 million from the year-ago period, according to statistics released by the Commerce Ministry. The figures stood at just $428.457 million during a year ago period. Myanmar Fisheries Federation (MFF) expected to earn more than $800 million from fishery exports in the FY2019-2020, and it reached a target. Myanmar exports fisheries products, such as fish, prawns, and crabs, to markets in 40 countries, including China, Saudi Arabia, the US, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, and countries in the European Union.

Myanmar’s fishery exports have slightly declined over the past months, owing to the COVID-19 impacts and the current trade delay amid the political changes. Additionally, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) issued guidelines to ensure food safety during the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020. The permitted companies are advised to carry out food safety plans, follow the WHO Fishery exports plunge to $380.65 mln in 2020-2021FY and FAO guidelines, formulate the safety management system, and suspend the exports if any suspicious foodborne virus or virus infection risk are found in the products. They can resume the exports once the products meet food safety criteria set by the General Administration of Customs of China’s People Republic (GACC).

China is the second-largest buyer of Myanmar’s fishery products, accounting for US$254 million out of the overall fishery export value of $850 million in the financial year 2019-2020. The federation expects to reach a fishery export target of US$1 billion in the current FY2020-2021. The MFF is making concerted efforts to increase fishery export earnings by developing fish farming lakes that meet international standards and adopting advanced fishing techniques. To ensure food safety, the foreign market requires suppliers to obtain Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and Good Aquaculture Practices (GAqP) certificates. To meet international market standards, fishery products must be sourced only from hatcheries that are compliant with GAqP.

The MFF works with fish farmers, processors, and the Fisheries Department under the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Irrigation to develop the GAqP system. Processors can screen fishery products for food safety at ISO-accredited laboratories under the Fisheries Department. There are 480,000 acres of fish and prawn breeding farms across the country and more than 120 cold-storage facilities in Myanmar. Myanmar exported 340,000 tonnes of fishery products worth $530 million in the 2013-2014FY, 330,000 tonnes worth $480 million in the 2014-2015FY, 360,000 tonnes worth $500 million in the 2015-2016FY, 430,000 tonnes worth $600 million in the 2016-2017FY, 560,000 tonnes worth $700 million in the 2017-2018FY, 580,000 tonnes worth over $730 million in the 2018-2019FY and $847.5 million, according to the Commerce Ministry.

An MFF official said the federation had asked the government to tackle problems faced in exporting farm-raised fish and prawns through G2G pacts and ensuring smooth freight movement between countries to bolster exports. Myanmar’s economy is more dependent on the agricultural sector to a large extent. Also, the fisheries sector contributes a lot to the national gross domestic product (GDP). Its fishery production, including shrimps and saltwater and freshwater fish, is far better than the regional countries. If the government can boost processing technology, it will contribute to the country’s economy and earn more income for those stakeholders in the supply chain, Yangon Region Fisheries Department stated.

Source: The Global New Light of Myanmar