(Reuters) – Myanmar’s external trade has plunged because of the COVID-19 pandemic and “political changes”, a state-run newspaper reported on Thursday, without mentioning violent turmoil following a Feb. 1 coup.
Between Oct. 1 and April 2 the value of external trade slumped to $15.78 billion from $20.36 billion in the same period a year earlier, the Global New Light of Myanmar reported.
“Myanmar witnessed a slump in exports and imports triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. Both sea trade and border trade dropped amid the coronavirus impacts and political changes,” said the newspaper, which has long been considered a mouthpiece of the military.
The military overthrew an elected government led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi two and a half months ago after the election commission rejected its complaints of fraud in a November vote swept by her party.
The return of military rule has triggered daily protests and strikes that have crippled the economy. More than 700 people have been killed in attempts by the security forces to suppress the demonstrations, an activist monitoring group says.
The newspaper, citing Commerce Ministry data, said exports were estimated at $7.8 billion in the October-April period, down more than $1.7 billion from the same period the previous year.
Imports were valued at $7.9 billion during the period, down $2.85 billion.
Myanmar mostly exports agricultural products, animal products, minerals, forest products, and finished industrial goods. Its main imports are capital goods, raw industrial materials and consumer goods.
The government is trying to reduce the trade deficit by screening luxury import items and boosting exports, the newspaper said.
Myanmar’s trade deficit was $1.3 billion in the 2019-2020 financial year, the newspaper said, citing the central statistics office.
It had targeted exports of $16 billion and imports of $18 billion for 2020-2021 under a National Planning Law, it said.
The Commerce Ministry and statistics office were not immediately available to comment.
(Writing by Robert Birsel. Editing by Mark Potter)