October 5, 2011


Farmers hopeful of fish price spike in Myanmar



Fish farmers in Myanmar are hopeful that a price spike in subsequent months and recent export tax reductions can boost the industry after a tough year.


"Fish prices remain low even though the exchange value of the US dollar has risen somewhat and the government has significantly reduced export taxes," U Win Kyaing, general secretary of the Myanmar Fisheries Federation (MFF), said during the federation's weekly meeting on September 27.


Export taxes for a number of commodities, including fisheries products, were cut from 10% to 7% in July and from 7% to 2% in mid-August to help exporters cope with the low exchange value of the dollar.


"The government's decision to reduce taxes has been a great help. But we hope that fish prices will rise domestically," he said, adding that the value of the dollar and the price of fish in local markets were, until recently, linked.


But even as the dollar has regained some ground against the kyat - trading at MMK830 (US$129) on September 28 against a low of MMK730 (US$114) in August - local prices have remained depressed, even for species that are commonly exported.


He said rohu (Nga Myit Chinn in Myanmar language), until recently a key export species, was selling last week for about MMK1650 (US$257) a viss (1.6 kilogrammes or 3.6 pounds) for fish weighing about 2.4 kilogrammes in local markets, while export credits earned from the successful sale of exports are worth about MMK820 (US$128). At the same time last year, a similarly sized fish fetched at least MMK1800 (US$369) a viss, while export credits were valued about MMK900 (US$140) each.


"Now the export credit rate is about MMK820 (US$128) and when combined with the tax of 8%, each export credit should be worth about MMK900 (US$140) but rohu prices are really low at MMK1650 (US$257). They should be closer to MMK1800 (US$281), like they were last year when export credits were MMK900 (US$140)," said one fish farmer based in Yangon Region.


"We lost a lot of money this year through bad weather and the exchange rate. If prices rose it would help us to recover some of our losses," he added.


U Win Kyaing added that prices had already climbed by MMK50 (US$8) a viss from September 19.


However, other Yangon Region farmers said during the meeting that exporters should pass on the increased revenues resulting from the tax cut to farmers and keep quiet about prices.


"The value of export credits is slowly rising but fish prices have not really increased much. The ministry thinks that these increased revenues will eventually go to fish farmers but actually they're going straight into the pockets of exporters," U Win Kyaing said.

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