By Christine Blank, Contributing Editor
Published on Thursday, January 31, 2013
Seafood exports from Myanmar are set to grow significantly this year, as European Union trade restrictions begin to lift, according to a new economic analysis.
“The EU expects this year to implement a plan to import all cultured (farmed) product from Myanmar,” said Willem van der Pijl, business developer and consultant for The Netherlands-based socio-economic research firm LEI Wageningen UR, which produced the report.
Buyers from the EU, the U.S. and, other countries are looking to the country to fulfill global short supplies of wild shrimp and other wild and farmed species such as tilapia. Myanmar produced an impressive 4.1 million tons of wild and farmed species in 2011 and is expected to produce 4.5 million tons in 2012, according to the report.
The EU removed its Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) status of Myanmar in 1997, after accusations of forced labor. And in 2009, the EU banned all Myanmar seafood imports. Imports of wild seafood were re-approved in 2010, while farmed products remain prohibited.
Labor issues at Myanmar seafood processing facilities have been resolved for a few years, according to van der Pijl. “Most of the companies that have EU approval export to Japan. It is very clear that the Japanese have a big impact on the management of the factories. The factories are very clean and modern, with detailed working plans for their workers,” Pijl said.
While Myanmar produces tilapia, grouper, pangasius, and other seafood, one of its most profitable species is shrimp. “Bangladesh and Myanmar still account for 90 percent of Black Tiger and Pacific white shrimp. Myanmar’s wild shrimp get quite a good value in the Japanese market, and the EU will be a good market as well,” Pijl said.
However, the farmed shrimp sector in Myanmar has collapsed and needs to be revitalized, according to LEI Wageningen UR. “The infrastructure is so badly affected by all the natural disasters and there is such a lack of capital to revitalize production. There will be a need of financial support from international donors (including governments and NGOs),” Pijl said.
The Myanmar government also needs to implement a clear strategy to help grow the farmed shrimp sector. “One of the biggest problems in Myanmar is electricity. If electricity is not provided, the farms need to operate on diesel and it is very difficult to produce a competitive product,” Pijl said.