The seafood sector in Myanmar has a large potential to contribute to food security, employment and economic development. Natural resources are widely available and fisheries is an important source of income and animal protein for the domestic population. Many products, like shrimp, mud crab and sea bass have a large commercial potential in high value markets in the EU and other overseas markets. To reach its full potential many constraints at the production and export level need to be overcome. This concludes LEI Wageningen UR in collaboration with The Dutch Centre for the Promotion of Import from Developing Countries (CBI) based on a quick scan to analyse the EU market potential of the seafood sector in Myanmar.
As a result of years of isolation the seafood sector is currently focused on regional markets and not comparable with seafood sectors in Vietnam, India and Indonesia. Export markets for Myanmar seafood products will change drastically as a result of the withdrawal of sanctions that limited exports to especially the EU and US. Exports of high value raw material like shrimp, barramundi and sea bass, to e.g. Bangladesh, China and Thailand may decrease while exports to the EU, US and e.g. Australia increase. Exports to the US are already increasing steadily and exports to the EU are likely to increase as soon the EU grants Myanmar the GSP status. GSP status will increase the competitiveness in the EU drastically. Although at first this will only benefit capture seafood products, as soon as the residue monitoring plan is implemented it will also benefit the export potential of cultured seafood products.
The shrimp farming sector in Myanmar has collapsed and needs to be revitalised. To provide the sector with an incentive to invest in production, market access to high value markets in the EU, US and Japan is essential. This includes achieving GSP status in the EU, the removal of trade barriers in the US and at the same time the development and implementation of the EU residue monitoring plan to get approval for the exports of aquaculture products. The latter will help lift the 100% checks in the EU and make the Myanmar products even more competitive. Myanmar requires assistance to build capacity to carry out all these tasks.
Myanmar could produce more from capture fisheries if it would restrict fishing activities of foreign vessels or require them to land the captured fish in Myanmar instead of in Thailand. To achieve this, policy must be reconsidered and law enforcement by the Myanmar Navy or coast guard should be strengthened. Although there are no figures available, it is likely that if all the fish is landed in Myanmar, considerable volumes of high value fish like tuna would become available and could contribute to export earnings. However, the government and private sector should then also invest in fishing technologies and fishing vessels to develop more deep-sea fishing capacity.
International support needed
In general, international support of governments and NGO’s as well as the private sector is needed to level the playing field between the seafood sector in Myanmar and other front-running seafood producing and exporting countries in the Asian region. There are many opportunities for the private sector to invest in. Input supplies, processing and service provision can contribute to the sustainable development and modernisation of the seafood sector in Myanmar.