Myanmar Beer is indicative of protected firms that are struggling in an open market: Source: Wikimedia
A disagreement over border demarcation is delaying the completion of a tourist gateway between Myanmar and China at Muse in Shan State. There are already three trade gates in the border town and the fourth, now under construction, would is mainly due for tourist use.
On a visit, Vice President U Sai Mauk Kham said: “The two governments are negotiating to demarcate the border line. I hope agreement will soon be reached,” he said. He added that attempts to build the gate in 2004 and 2011 had failed over disagreements concerning the exact border line.
“We don’t want any more delay, so the union government is trying to find a way to resolve the matter. We hope the regional [Shan State] government will play its part too,” said the vice president.
“We allowed for a 10-metre space on either side of the border line [for discussion purposes], but the Chinese side breached that rule,” said U Ngwe Soe, project director of New Starlight construction company, which is building the gate. “We have built the gate on our side, for the benefit of international tourists wishing to come and go. This would require us to sign an agreement with China, so that tourists passing through from China can enter Myanmar and other countries through the gate.”
Despite the lack of any progress on the Chinese side, Myanmar said it had finished 70 per cent of construction work on its side.
In further signs of development in the former pariah state, state-backed Myanmar Beer, which commands about two thirds of the country’s beer market by volume, is looking to refresh its image and products.
The once-dominant brew is facing competition from Denmark’s Carlsberg and Dutch Heineken, which began brewing in Myanmar this year as economic reforms loosened the government monopolies.
Myanmar Brewery Limited, the military-linked producer of the beer and four other brands, is looking to increase beer consumption. Myanmar has one of Asia’s lowest levels of beer drinking.
Just months after opening, Heineken is planning to double capacity at its Yangon brewery to 50 million litres from 25 million, according to Lester Tan, managing director at the APB Alliance Brewery Company which produces Heineken.
Due to booming sales, the company accelerated an expansion plan it had expected to execute after three or four years, he said.
“Heineken volumes have just gone through the roof, it has taken us all by surprise,” Tan said. Heineken’s economy brand Regal Seven was “slowly chipping away” at Myanmar Beer’s market share, he explained.
“There are a lot of challenges in the market,” said Hiroshi Fujikawa, who was named MBL managing director this year after Japan’s Kirin purchased a 55-per-cent stake for US$560 million from Singaporean firm Fraser and Neave (F&N).
“One is that Heineken and Carlsberg came into this market this year and launched premium and local beer products. So the competitive in the market will definitely be changing and be more and more fierce.”
MBL has issued a sleeker bottle, increased its promotional efforts and begun to target a younger customers by sponsoring hip-hop and dance events to circumnavigate country’s strict alcohol advert ban.