Just a few weeks prior to celebrating the Myanmar New Year, on March 18 2015, the Ministry of Commerce issued Notification No. 18/2015 lifting the ban regarding to the importation of foreign wines in Myanmar. The official reason is that "the local market demand and significant influx of foreigners owing to the improving situations of the country". Actually, the welcomed move is aimed at raising tax revenue, reducing the black market trade and giving more control over the distribution of foreign wines.
Under the new notification, importers must have company registration, trading licences and an agreement with the company (e.g wine castle/trader) from which they are importing wines before applying for wine import licences and wine import registration cards from the Ministry of Commerce, General Administration Department. The procedure is relatively straightforward.
Once the license and card are granted, importers must comply with various conditions and standards, such as ensuring that the imported wines carry a proper label proving taxes are paid, that the ingredients are listed in English, that the wine is imported only by air or sea, the labels showing the country of origin.
Hotels and duty-free shops will continue to enjoy a loophole allowing them to import wine without a wine import license or card. This has been kept going under recommendation from the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism.
The end or prohibition, does come with a price… the Union Tax Law for the 2015-16 fiscal year has imposed a commercial tax on wine of 50% in addition to the customs tax of 30%.
The Notification allows foreign wines to be legally imported and distributed in Myanmar by entities other than hotels and duty free shops represents a great opportunity in one of the fastest growing economies in South East Asia with a strong interest in wines, producing award-winning wines, such as "Red Mountain" (120,000 bottles per year).