From Myanmar’s trade data emerges a clear picture of the opportunities for investment. As in other developing economies, imports exceed exports, creating chances for importers to supply the young consumer market and for manufacturers to invest and boost domestic production.
The latest data compiled by the Ministry of Planning and Finance, which dates from 2016 (and does not capture Myanmar’s still-sizable informal economy) shows that imports were worth US$15.7 billion and exports worth $11.7 billion.
Breaking this down further, the top market for Myanmar products in 2016 was China, which bought exports worth $4.8 billion. Thailand was second, buying $2.2 billion worth of Myanmar products, followed by India with $1 billion, Singapore with $891 million and Japan with $663 million.
These top trading partners predominantly bought raw natural resources or agriculture products, demonstrating the considerable potential for the development of value-added industries in Myanmar.
Natural gas was the biggest income earner, bringing in $3.2 billion in 2016, followed by dried beans, worth $1.1 billion, cane or beet sugar worth $1 billion, precious or semi-precious stones worth $391 million and husked rice, worth $339 million.
China was also Myanmar’s top supplier of goods, selling products worth $5.4 billion in 2016. Myanmar imported $2.27 billion worth of products from Singapore, almost $2 billion from Thailand, $1.3 billion from Japan and $1.1 billion from India.
The top import in 2016 was petroleum oils, for which Myanmar paid $1.6 billion. Cane sugar (for re-export to China, a trade that has since been suspended) was worth $1.34 billion, dump trucks designed for off-highway use were worth $904 million, vegetable fats and oils were worth $528 million and motorcycles were worth $356 million.