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India bans betel nut imports as illegal trade rises.

Date: 25-05-2018
Subject: India bans betel nut imports as illegal trade rises
India has set strict import bans on areca nuts, or betel nuts, from Myanmar in a bid to control illegal trade, said U Khin Maung Tint, secretary of Kalay-Tamu Border Trade Merchant Association.

Since Monday, Indian military forces have banned the crossing of vehicles on the Myanmar-Indian Border Bridge located in Rikhawdar town, Chin State. 

No reasons were given concerning the ban, but insiders say the move could be to prevent the illegal entry of betel nuts into India. Betel nuts are exported yearly to India via the Tamu Border Trade Station and Reed Border Trade Station. In 2017-18 some 40,000 tonnes of betel nuts were exported, compared to just 16,500 tonnes in 2013-14, according to U Khin Maung Tint. 

But those exports also include illegal nuts from Indonesia, which enter Myanmar through the Thai border, officials from Kalay-Tamu Border Trade Merchant Association said.

In fact, Myanmar produces just 10,000 tonnes of betel nuts a year so the remaining exports are likely illegal nuts from Indonesia, said U Khin Maung Tint. “We export more than 40,000 tonnes of betel nuts to India. Therefore, the amount of illegal betel nuts from Indonesia is more than 30,000 tonnes,” he said.

Indian traders buy the nuts from Indonesia and carry them into Myanmar via the Myawaddy and Mae Sot border gates. The Indians cooperate with Myanmar traders to ferry the goods across to India via the Tamu and Reed gates. 

“Myanmar must control the illegal movement of betel nuts from Mae Sot-Myawaddy. It needs to impose taxes of 17 percent for all imports and 2pc for exports. Currently, the traders are not paying those taxes. The government is now investigating this,” said U Khin Maung Tint.

U Hla Maung, chair of Kalay-Tamu Border Trade Merchant Association, had promised to take action against the illegally imported betel nuts during a meeting with Vice President U Myint Swe this month.

Local farmers cannot compete against the cheaper, illegal nuts from Indonesia even though Myanmar betel nuts are of better quality and have been forced to drop prices to loss-making levels. 

 “Because of illegal trade, legit farmers and merchants who export to India are seeing a drop in demand for locally cultivated betel nuts. Some are even at the brink of closing down,” U Hla Maung said.

Besides controlling illegal trade though, Myanmar should negotiate with the Indians for more stable trade policies. India, which in the past had allowed betel nuts to be exported to its shores tax-free, had more recently raised its import tax to 40 pc. 

“This shouldn’t happen. Trade between both our countries should be stable and fair. The India Embassy said they are imposing higher taxes because we import and re-export goods from foreign countries. They said only Myanmar products are given tax exemptions. The government should look into this,” said U Khin Maung Tint.

Source: mmtimes.com

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