Chinese technicians arrived in Rangoon on Wednesday to kick-start implementation of rice-inspection protocols as the two countries move closer to reaching a trade agreement.
Led by the director-general of China’s Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), the four-member delegation was sent to inspect paddy fields, rice mills, sea ports and germ-eradication programmes.
According to the Myanmar Rice Federation (MRF), the team will make an additional stop in the capital city of Naypyidaw to meet with Burma’s minister of agriculture and irrigation.
“We have been trying to make this happen nearly three years, since the new government took power,” said Dr. Soe Htun, secretary of the MRF.
“This is the first step, and hopefully everything will be all right soon. But it’s not as simple as people think; the visit alone will not make everything ready. We have many more steps to take,” he added.
An agreement on quality inspection will be signed following sufficient negotiations, and then the two sides will begin talks on an export agreement, Dr. Soe Htun said.
Discussions will focus on cross-border trade more generally, and will include an agreement to legalise rice imports via land crossings to China, which is an important source of revenue for many small- and medium-sized agricultural enterprises.
Roughly 80 percent of Burma’s rice exports are believed to go to China. While it is legal for Burmese farmers to export to China, it is illegal for Chinese merchants to import the products.
Illicit cross-border trade has had a devastating effect on value. Frequent large seizures of illegally imported rice have caused prices to nose-dive, causing hardship among farmers living along China’s borders with both Burma and Vietnam.