Chinese ware wiping out Indian goods in Tamu

N-E on the boil: Manipur's instability affects cross-border trade in Myanmar's border town

Chinese ware wiping out Indian goods in Tamu

U Mautan,58,  runs a popular shop that sells good quality genuine Indian goods in Tamu main market along the Asian Highway 1 that goes all the way to Mandalay in Myanmar.

Located within 4 km of the International border between India and Myanmar, opposite to the border town of Moreh in Manipur’s Chandel district, Tamu is a buzzing Myanmar township in Sagaing division over nearly 1,15,000 people, many of whom are of Indian origin.

One of them is Mautan. These days, he is a rare breed in the busy bustling market of nearly 500 shops since he is one of the very few in Tamu who sells ‘Only Indian’ goods. While New Delhi plans to open up to the Southeast Asian market accessing the Tamu gateway of Myanmar, Indian goods have actually lost the battle to cheap Chinese products in this Myanmarese town.

“We have this shop in Tamu since 1973. At that time there was no legal trade with India. It was all on barter. But it used to be a highly profit making trade. In the last 10 years or so,  Chinese products have made inroads and Indian products have lost market. The reasonsbeing a cycle of unrest in Manipur that disrupts the supply chain of Indian products and cheap Chinese products for which far lesser tax has to be paid” Mautan said.

 He still stick to his family principles of selling ‘only Indian’, but many businessmen in Tamu who once used to do business with only Indian companies now have completely switched to  Chinese makes.

The Moreh –Tamu trade link dates back to the British era, it was only in 1995 that both countries agreed to legalise cross-border trade.

 “In between the 60s and 70s, although trade was not legalised, a flourishing barter trade continued. In a week about 500 Indian truck loads of products used to come to Moreh. Then Indian porters would bring them into Tamu. Since our country (read Myanmar) had almost nothing of its own, we were dependent on Indian products. These days we go for Chinese products since they are cheap, we get more margin money. The Chinese products reach us easily from Mandalay. The supply chain from China to Tamu through the China border onward to Mandalay and Tamu is robust and does not have problem like regular bandh like India has in Manipur” said Demwe , a Myanmarese youth who has a wholesale business in Tamu market. 

At a time while India is on its way to set up a Integrated Land Customs Station in Moreh,  the Myanmarese traders feel this had to be done long back.

“ Better late then never. 15 years back, we never thought of Chinese products. We used to look toward India. The Integrated Land port will not be of great use unless insurgency and ethnic conflicts in Manipur are solved. We will keep having bandhs” said another Myanmarese trader Millima, who frequents Moreh with Betel nuts and gingers from Myanmar.

Another Nepali youth who is a Myanmarese citizen on condition of anonymity says: “Our side of the border is more developed these days than Moreh. Moreover , our military junta has administered well. In China also there is one party rule. India is politically different”.


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