China demands hygiene standards on Burmese rice to legalise trade

China demands hygiene standards on Burmese rice to legalise trade

The Chinese government is demanding a formal sanitary and phytosanitary agreement on rice standards with Burma, officially known as Myanmar, according to local sources.

The agreement is required by China to legalise its rice trade with Burma, the joint-secretary of the Myanmar Rice Federation was quoted as saying. Though China accounts for about 60 percent of total unprocessed rice exports from Burma for the last two years, Chinese authorities view the trade as illegal due to the absence of a formal sanitary and phytosanitary agreement on rice standards between the two countries. Such an agreement would require Burma’s milled rice exports to follow China’s plant quarantine rules, including a third-party guarantee that they are free of disease or pests.

Most of the rice from Burma is exported to China through informal border channels. In 2013, Burma exported around 747,000 tons of rice to China through such channels. Rice exports to China have increased by almost 125 times since 2011, according to a report by the World Bank in June this year.

A World Bank Economist is also understood to have suggested Burma sign a formal agreement with China, considering the stiff competition from Vietnam. The Burmese government is also keen on accelerating trade with China given differences between China and Vietnam over an oil rig in the South China Sea.

Burma’s rice exports are likely to reach around 1.16 million tons in fiscal year 2013-14, down 47 percent from 2.1 million tons exported in 2012-13, according to the Minister of Commerce. The US Department of Agriculture estimates Burma’s rice exports in 2014 to grow to around 1.3 million tons, up about 12 percent from the previous year’s level. The country’s milled rice production is estimated at 11.96 million tons in MY 2013-14 (January 2014 – December 2014) against a consumption of around 10.5 million tons.

This article first appeared on Oryza website on 21 July 2014. Oryza is the global leader in data and industry news concerning rice and is an industry partner of DVB.

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