News flowing from Myanmar has been grim since the coup d’état arose on February 1st. Many casualties have resulted from the coup and coupled with the negative impact of the pandemic, the country has seen an income-based poverty level increase from 16% to 63% (From IFPRI)
According to Atlas Coffee Importers, many Myanmar coffee producers experienced a record harvest this season but the coup has brought unexpected hurdles. Bank closures are routine, as are roadblocks, as a result of the civil unrest. Internet blackouts are common as the incumbent regime attempts to restrict communication between protestors.
Some farmers were forced to simply sell their harvest to the local market to make quick cash since international options closed off to them. Countries placing trade restrictions on the country have not helped coffee growers in Myanmar either.
The outlook in the short to medium term isn’t great. The western governments have minimal influence on the Junta who have taken control. They can place sanctions, but Myanmar’s main trading partners are China and Thailand.
The Chinese buy large quantities of jade from the country which, by some estimates, produces around 70 per cent of the world’s supply. The Chinese show no interest in applying sanctions over the coup, and recent history in countries like Syria and Belarus have shown that strongman autocracy works if you can just wait it out.
The best thing roasters, consumers, and shops can do for Myanmar is to buy from these coffee producers. Countries are likely to roll out tariffs and trade barriers with Myanmar but in order to keep these coffee producers alive, buying their coffee is a necessity. (Ed. I’ll be actively sourcing Myanmar beans here in the UK and may publish a list of those who are able to still import them. I have traveled around Myanmar, and found the people there, especially in Yangon, to be among the friendliest and most generous I have ever met)