The Cattle Trade from Myanmar to China and to Mainland Southeast Asia

The Economy
07 NOV 2018

The Cattle Trade from Myanmar to China and to Mainland Southeast Asia

Myanmar recent legalization of the cattle trade is intended to respond to growing food demand from Southwest China. The trade in cattle is likely to be among - if not the main - catalyst for a potential transformation in the rural heartland of Myanmar. In this region cattle are still raised for use as draft animals and are kept as a means of saving for agrarian households. The Myanmar authorities are faced with controlling these changes to avert disruptions from a rapid pace of mechanization that makes animal drafting redundant. They also need to replace an outflow of labor (migrating to the cities) and an inflow of investment in intensive commercial cattle farming. But it could also be a great opportunity for the NLD government to deliver tangible economic progress to its rural electorate. A similar degree of subtlety in managing these changes is required with international partners to make sure they meet food safety requirements. This is a challenge given that the movement of livestock is often accompanied by pathogen flows, above all foot and mouth disease, that affects livestock especially in the swine industry but is often lumped together with animal health risk such as HPAI-H5N1 that is deadly to human population. And now that the trade has been  made legal (despite a lack of perfect control over its porous border), transboundary animal health regulations requiring surveillance and emergency response undertaken individually or collectively by countries involved is deemed more necessary than ever before.

A theme dominant in literature on the SPS regulation suggests an optimistic view that regulatory upgrades do have a poverty reduction potential. The researcher undertaken this study starts off by adopting this view and would carry it a step further by highlighting the trade facilitation potential via multilateral arrangement of SPS regulation type. This requires  ASEAN food safety or disease specific arrangements via network of SEACFMD or via BIMSTEC countries in addition to entering bilateral regulatory arrangement with China. A conceptual framework and empirical methods are to be developed to answer the questions of the potential of the cattle trade in leading to poverty reduction. The relative effectiveness of risk mitigation arrangements and, hence, possibly competing procedures in market integration and potential harmonization, or otherwise, of disease control measure  will be examined in terms of providing a regional public good.

Potapohn, Manoj

Manoj Potapohn teaches at Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Economics and formerly also at Yangon University of Economics ... [read more]