Myanmar: Frustrated farmers give away melons as checkpoint remains closed

Melon growers from Myanmar gave away some 50 tons of watermelons last Monday, in a protest against the closure of a key border checkpoint for fruit exports in the Muse border trade zone on the Myanmar-China border.

Melon and cantaloupe growers from Butalin Township organized the protest, one of its leaders, Ko Thitsar, told The Irrawaddy.

Local melon exporters have suffered serious losses as their produce has been left to spoil at the border since the Myanmar Army closed the Jin San Jiao Gate for security reasons on the evening of Dec. 26. The timing couldn’t have been worse for the farmers, with seasonal demand for melons and cantaloupes now at peak level.

Protesters have demanded the immediate re-opening of the gate and called on the government to help establish a system that allows melon and cantaloupe growers to sell their produce on the Myanmar side of the border.

Previously, around 500 trucks ferrying watermelons and cantaloupes traded at the Jin San Jiao gate daily. But the number has declined to around 200 because of the traffic congestion along the route to Pansai, and because Chinese officials are taking longer to inspect Myanmar exports.

Most of the brokerages in Muse have stopped accepting fruit shipments due to the closure. However, growers are taking risks and still attempting to export their crops as it is now the harvest season.

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