Domestic rubber production is estimated to be approximately 160,000 tonnes per year, though official statistics have recorded consistent exports of about 90,000 tonnes per year. Recent increases in rubber production, not being reflected in export statistics, are leading officials to conclude that illegal exports are on the rise.
“Some traders have found they are able to carry rubber anywhere in the country without inspection and can carry it easily to other countries,” said U Khint Myint, Secretary of the Myanmar Rubber Planters and Producers Association. “Catching these informal rubber exporters would likely mean Myanmar’s official exports would be at least 100,000 tonnes this year,” he said. “But if not, illegal exports will likely get bigger – so the government needs to urgently conduct effective raids.” Trucks carrying raw rubber wrapped in plastic to conceal the smell often slip undetected through the borders, while others deliberately underestimate the size of their rubber loads at the border, all in a bid to avoid export duties.Traders using the legal channels not only had to worry about paying taxes, but faced higher labour and transport charges.
The export of raw rubber is outlawed to keep processing jobs in Myanmar, but trading partners are said to prefer raw rubber to Myanmar’s semi-processed rubber, leading to smuggling. Some illegal traders are also keen to avoid paying taxes, such as a 2 percent tax on exported goods that began in June last year. Officials suspect that illegal exporters are making use of popular trade routes such as Muse and Chinshwehaw linking Shan State and China, and illegal links in the Payathanzou border area near Thailand.