Ups and downs
The Burmese currency gained again this week – buying at 970 kyat to the US dollar (981 last week) and selling at 980 kyat (from 983 last week). Gold rose minutely to 684,900 kyat per tical. Fuel prices remain: petrol 820 kyat, octane 950 kyat and diesel 920 kyat per litre. High-quality Pawhsanmwe rice is still selling at 1,200-1,300 kyat per basket while low-quality Emata rice remains at 850-900 kyat.
Burmese rice exports down by nearly a third
Rice exports have dropped by 30 percent in the 2013-14 fiscal year, compared to the year before, Trade and Commerce Minister Win Myint announced on Wednesday. According to the Myanmar Rice Association, 1 million tons of rice has been exported in 2013-14, down from 1.4 million tons in 2012-13. The Association believes this is due to both a low yield and a decrease in demand from China. Burma was the world’s largest rice exporter from 1961 to 1963. The Burmese financial year ends on 31 March.
Government to lift booze ban
7 Day Daily reported on 3 March that the Burmese Trade Ministry is in talks to lift a ban on the import of alcoholic drinks. Introduced in 1995, the ban was designed to protect local producers such as Myanmar Brewery, in which the military-linked Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd hold a 45 percent stake. Myanmar Brewery, Burma’s biggest corporate taxpayer, enjoys an 83 percent market share. Lifting the import ban could stem endemic smuggling; last year hundreds of thousands of bottles of alcohol were confiscated in a crackdown ahead of the SEA games.
Indonesian firm cements deal in Burma
Two state-owned Indonesian cement manufacturers are set to begin operations in Burma, the Jakarta Globe reported on Saturday. Semen Indonesia aims to secure the deal by April 2014, with ambitions of supplying concrete produced in Burma to neighbouring ASEAN countries. A concrete factory owned by Wijaya Karya is expected to be complete within a year, the report said.
Burma says ‘gam bei!’ to Asahi
Asahi Group Holdings Ltd announced on Friday that it has agreed to establish a joint venture with Burmese beverage maker Loi Hein Co to produce and sell carbonated soft drinks, according to Japan’s Jiji Press. Asahi will reportedly invest 2.3 billion yen (US$22 million) to acquire a 51 percent stake in the joint venture. Tokyo-based Asahi Breweries is best known as the manufacturer of Asahi beer. As of 2009, the company had a 40 percent share of the Japanese beer market.
MAI is independent, says transport minister
Burma’s national carrier, Myanmar Airways International, or MAI, was transformed into a financially independent corporation at the beginning of the 2013-14 fiscal year and no longer requires state funds, according to Transport Minister Nyan Tun Aung, addressing Parliament on 6 March upon submission of the Aviation Law. MAI currently operates daily flights to Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Guangzhou, Gaya, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, and last week announced a new route to Pusan in South Korea.
Rice storage scheme starts 15 March
A rice storage scheme, which will allow farmers to stock surplus rice instead of selling it at low prices during the harvest season, will launch on 15 March, according to the Myanmar Rice Federation’s general-secretary Ye Min Aung. Speaking at an MRF conference in Rangoon on 6 March, the official said that farmers who stock their rice under the scheme – which has UNFAO backing – will be issued insurance documents which can be mortgaged for bank loans.
Japan’s Mizuho Bank ready for Rangoon
Japanese Mizuho Bank is ready to open its Rangoon branch as soon as the government grants permission for foreign banking operations, the bank’s Rangoon Chief Officer Tetsuro Nonaka said on Thursday. Nonaka said the bank will primarily focus on serving Japanese companies investing in Burma. With 80 branches in over 30 countries, Mizuho serves as advisor to the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Thilawa Special Economic Zone Project, as well as a gas-fired power plant in Tharkayta.
US$2b real estate value on Burma’s embassies abroad
Real estate value for Burmese embassies and consulates in 40 cities worldwide amounts to an estimated two billion USD, said Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Tint Lwin Oo in a 6 March parliamentary session, though he added that the value could be much higher. Of those, 18 plots of land are owned and 22 leased. The minister declined to answer a query by MP Aung Maung about Japanese consular land sold by the military regime after 1988.
10,000 Burmese companies evading taxes, says Ministry
The Ministry of Finance’s Internal Revenue Department (IRD) announced that over 10,000 companies have not paid their taxes since April 2012, neither have they had any contact with the department to request deferral. The IRD said they have a 20 March deadline to report inability to pay. The announcement did not specify which taxes were being evaded. According to a new Taxation Bill, currently awaiting parliamentary approval, the IRD looks to double its tax profits in the upcoming 2014-15 fiscal year to around 5 trillion kyat (US$5 billion) from 2.7 trillion (US$2.7 billion) the previous year.