By KHINE KYAW
ASIA NEWS NETWORK
In FY2011-12, Myanmar could generate US$705.9 million (Bt24.7 billion) from fishery exports, after dropping for three years – from $624.18 million in FY2012-13 to $516.04 million in FY2013-14 and $421.07 in FY2014-15.
Fishery exports increased |slightly in FY2015-16, as Myanmar earned $469.52 million. As of |today, in FY2016-17, the nation |has generated around $450 mil-|lion and is likely to earn more |than last year, according to the |Commerce Ministry.
Hnin Oo, senior vice president of the Myanmar Fisheries Federation, said this week that Myanmar could double its income from fishery exports, generating around $1 billion per year for the next three years, if the government and businesses cooperate to increase productivity as well as product quality.
“Nobody can underestimate our sector. It really means a lot to the national economy and the supply chain.
“It is a nationwide business that can cover up to 25 per cent of the budget deficit in the near future,” he said.
Myanmar’s fishery products are shipped to many markets including China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Asean, the Middle East, Europe and the United States.
Yet, exports to Western countries are still very limited, due to their high food safety standards.
Hnin Oo is optimistic about market expansion to the West.
The industry had suffered greatly from the economic sanctions imposed on Myanmar’s former military junta, he said.
It bounced back after the removal of sanctions by the US and the European Union during President Thein Sein’s government, but the lack of technology and limited investment led to some drops in exports in the past few years.
Despite this, the industry has had bright prospects since last year and continues to grow further during the National League for Democracy government, he said.
“In the past, we bred little and caught many. Now, it is time to breed as many as possible and catch as few as possible,” he said.
The government should help drive the industry forward.
The federation has asked the government to include the industry in the most important categories of the nation’s National Export Strategy.
Maung Maung Lay, vice president of the Myanmar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, also considered fisheries as one of the most pivotal industries, as it could contribute to domestic consumption as well as the generation of national income.
“Many of our businesses have suffered from long-term isolation. Once, our country was known as the Rice Bowl of Asia. We are now eager to regain our past glory. We hope to become the food basket of the world one day,” he said last week.
Maung Maung Soe, president of the Myanmar Marine Fisheries Association, has urged the government to allow large-scale building of fishing vessels or imports of necessary machinery, to allow imports of fishing gears and diesel with a reduced tax rate.
He suggested increasing productivity of value-added fishery products, improving local dried fish businesses and encouraging the establishment of canneries and fish-ball factories across the nation.
The government should lease sufficient land to local businesses so that they can build factories and cold storage units, he said.
Tint Wai, adviser to the Myanmar Fishery Products Processors and Exporters Association, said processing and export promotion play a vital role in the efforts to achieve the “ambitious” target.
Participating in international fishery products shows helped local businesses with branding.
The association has led Myanmar fishery businesses to seafood shows in Asean countries, China, and as far as Boston and Brussels.
Besides various fish, prawns, crabs and eels are among the bestselling exports.
The association is now working with the Fisheries Department under the EU-funded, four-year trade development programme and five-year Myanmar sustainable aquaculture programme.
The EU funded 10.5 million euros (Bt387.5 million) for the former and €20.5 million for the latter. The Netherlands government supported the €1 million three-year marketing programme.
For the industry to develop, he suggested combating illegal fishing and improving food safety.
The government should support jetties, fishing vessels and ice plants in order to have better control of fish handling.
The association has helped the government with strengthening and modernising the fishery inspection system and conducting intensive training on trade control and expert systems to establish a health certification system for fishery products exported to European countries.