Sinlung /
10 September 2012

Business Booms Beyond Manipur Borders Pranjal Baruah

Moreh (Manipur), Sep 10 : The small border town of Moreh in Manipur's Chandel district is known as a paradise for traders operating along the borders of India and Myanmar. In fact, the locals expand the town's name as 'Millions of Rupees Enter Here', indicative of the large volume of trade underway at Moreh on a regular basis. And the expansion is not very far off the mark as the market here sees inflow of huge amounts of money from trade deals, both legal and illegal, with Southeast Asian countries, which has been on here for decades.

"Officially, Moreh has an estimated border trade of almost Rs 40 lakh per day. Major items bought by Myanmar traders from India are cotton yarn, auto parts, soyabean products and pharmaceuticals, while Indian traders purchase betelnuts, dried ginger, turmeric roots, resin and medicinal herbs from their Myanmar counterparts," says Ishantor Sobhapandit, regional director of the Indian Chamber of Commerce (NE). Local sources said that the unofficial volume of transaction at Moreh is almost over Rs 2 crore per day.

The Indo-Myanmar friendship route opens at 7 am and closes at 4 pm every day for trade. The bilateral trade rules between India and Myanmar allows India to export jeera (peeper) and sugar and import only betelnut from Myanmar, informs K B Subramaniam, public relations secretary at the Border Trade and Chamber of Commerce at Moreh. "The trade of items not listed for official bilateral trade has, however, been escalating over the last few years," he adds.

Targetting these huge transactions, China has virtually invaded Moreh's Namphalong bazaar, located right on the road that demarcates the international boundary between India and Myanmar. Using Myanmarese vendors to sell its products here, the neighbouring country has flooded Namphalong with all kinds of products which Indian buyers are lapping up. Be it toys, mobile phones, home appliances, beauty products, chocolates and even cigarettes, most of the products available at the market are made in China.

Every morning, hundreds of Burmese vendors, both men and women, throng Namphalong and Tamu markets in the border area armed with Chinese products to sell to Indian buyers. "Chinese bulk producers are using the vendors of Myanmar as their agents to sell their products in India. China can send these products to Myanmar without any duty and then to India through the Moreh market," said Khwaza Mainuddin, a border trade official at Moreh.

Robin Jaisi, a vendor of Nepali origin who operates at the Tamu market, added, "My family has been selling various goods with Indian buyers for generations. Most of our products are Chinese and some are from Myanmar and Thailand. Though our currency is Burmese kyat, we accept the Indian rupee too. Electronics and Kaungimaun (a kind of Burmese rice) sell like hot cakes in the Indian market."

Located some 110 km from the capital town of Imphal in Chandel district, Moreh is an ethnic Kuki inhabited town with a population of around 14,000, including ethnic communities like Meiteis, Tamils, Nepalis, Muslims, Meitei-Pangals. It is a fast-developing and an important trade point in India on the border with Myanmar, with the town of Tamu being close to the border.

India and Myanmar signed a border trade agreement in 1994 and have two operational border trade points (Moreh-Tamu and Zowkhatar-Rhi) on the 1,643 km long border. During the 3rd India-Myanmar Joint Trade Committee in October 2008, it was agreed that border trade at the existing points would be upgraded. A third border trade point is proposed to be opened at Avakhung-Pansat/Somrai.


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