Fish and Aquatic Food Systems COVID-19 Updates: Myanmar

Following first case detections at the end of March, Myanmar instituted stay-at-home orders, curfews, bans on public gatherings, and closures of public events, entertainment venues, restaurants, and religious institutions on April 9th. It was recently announced that most measures would be extended until May 15th. At the beginning of May, Myanmar had registered 151 confirmed cases and 6 deaths.

Myanmar’s most important commercial sectors are already suffering from the pandemic, with economic activity slowing down. Tens of thousands of layoffs were reported in the garment, bag and shoe industry which is an important source of employment.

Impacts on fisheries and aquaculture: Exports of fisheries products reportedly plummeted as demand fell and export agreements were suspended, and factory workers were reported to be at risk of not receiving their wages as a result. The Myanmar crab industry has been in difficulty since February following China’s lockdown measures. On the other hand, it was reported that fish was entering Yangon’s main fish wholesale market, which mainly serves Myanmar’s domestic consumers, as usual at the beginning of April, with prices and volumes of fish traded remaining stable.

Responses and coping mechanisms: Large numbers of people have been vulnerable and food insecure with limited savings, high dependence on daily wages, and limited formal social safety nets on which to depend. Several national aid programs were put in place to mitigate the economic impacts and assist vulnerable people. A food assistance program was implemented from April 10th to provide staple foods to low-income groups. The Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) also announced a plan to establish a fund worth MMK 150 million ($105,000) to supply food to lower-income groups during the pandemic. However, some observers have suggested that providing assistance in the form of cash transfers would to be more efficient approach, in part because they contribute to stimulating the local economy. Extended social security measures were also proposed by the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population for registered workers in case of extended factory closures. More than $25 million in aid was promised by international donors, including the Livelihoods and Food Security Fund (LIFT), European Union, United States and Australia to support affected and groups. To cope with the measures put in place to prevent the spread of the virus, restaurants in Nay Pyi Taw have made takeaway options available as an alternative to usual eat-in dining arrangements.