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Cattle pens needed to lower costs for China overland trade

The government should set up suitable holding pens for cattle on the Myanmar side that will help lower the costs of transportation for the overland cross-border trade with China.

Currently, China buys one million head of cattle from Myanmar on a quota system with discussions over an agreement ensuring more stable demand being held. Points of discussion include demand that cattle health conform to World Organisation for Animal Health standards.

Myanmar Livestock Federation for Mandalay chair U Kyaw Htin said while an agreement with the Chinese would soon be signed, the government should support the building of cattle pens in a suitable location rather than rely on the overland trade with China at Muse.

He said costs could be lowered on the Myanmar side should there be such pens as cattle would only be transported to the border on demand. “No cattle will pile up at the border while waiting for Chinese buyers, should there be demand, we will transport it,” U Kyaw Htin said.

He added that these holding pens can be set up in locations such as Mandalay, Nawngcho and Bhamaw with abundant cattle feed. “We have submitted plans to the relevant ministries for these pens and hope to get government cooperation for them,” he said.

Meanwhile, Agriculture, Livestock and Fishery Development committee member U Hla San said the health quality of the cattle has affected prices. “There is demand from China but questions over the health of the cattle stock means that demand can be uncertain or prices lowered as a result,” he said.

While only licensed cattle can be sold on the overland cross-border trade, unlicensed cattle being sold has been estimated at between 1 million and 1.5 million head of cattle while official exports from January 2018 to January 2019 stood at 500,000. The problem has been made worst by armed militias levying K1.5 million to K2 million on the cattle export route, which makes total costs rise to K6 million for a trip, exporters said.

“Threats have been made against those who don’t pay up and after paying the militias, many don’t want to pay for the license,” they said, adding that an export route secure from the militias would help stem the sale of unlicensed cattle.

While cattle prices have been affected by the lack of Chinese demand earlier in the year, prices have rebounded since May. Prices for a cow starts from K1.5 million to K2 million while a buffalo starts from K1.7 million to K2 million. Myanmar has an estimated 13 million head of cattle.