Indian exporters of goods to Myanmar have their fingers crossed about the future as the continuing military unrest in the neighbouring country is turning shipping lines jittery with some suspending operations and most others going slow.

The situation at the moment is not “highly alarming” as transactions have not come to a stop, but there could be a big problem in the future if things don’t improve and exporters’ concerns will be taken up with the government soon, per exporters’ body Federation of Indian Export Organisations (Fieo).

“Shipping lines are taking a cautious call on Myanmar as they do not want to take a risk and get their containers stuck. Right now exporters are not facing a big challenge as transactions are happening, although slowly, but if the situation doesn’t improve, there will be trouble,” said Ajay Sahai, Director General, Fieo.

While India’s trade with Myanmar is not large with annual exports to the country at $974 million (0.37 per cent of total exports) and imports at about $548 million (0.31 per cent of total imports) in 2019-20, it is significant for importers of top items such as edible vegetables & roots, pulses and wood items as well as exporters of pharmaceuticals, iron & steel, electrical machinery & parts, vehicles & parts and sugar.

Delayed operations

The problem is not only related to customs operations but also connected to logistics and warehousing, points out a government official.

“What we are getting to hear is that even when shipping lines are sending containers from India, there is a delayed clearance from the importers as factories in Myanmar are either not operating in full capacities or have temporarily shut down. The delay in emptying of containers is hampering business of shipping lines since containers are already in short supply. That is why some shipping companies are unwilling to take the risk,” the official said.

Sahai said that Fieo will take feedback from its members over the next couple of days and then take up the matter with the government to see if some interventions can be made.

“We hope that the Commerce & Industry Ministry and the Ministry of Ports & Shipping will come up with some plan to help ease the situation by talking to shipping lines. One shouldn’t wait for things to worsen,” a Delhi-based exporter said.