Govt wants farmers to diversify with agriculture, livestock
A PROPOSAL urging the Union government to assist farmers in running joint agricultural and livestock businesses was submitted to the Pyithu Hluttaw on August 11 by MP U Tin Htwe (NLD; Waw).
Myanmar needs to develop its farming sector because it is an agriculture-based country, he said, adding that the sector could earn increased foreign income by exporting more rice, beans and pulses.
He put agricultural land at 12 million acres, a total that Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation information officer U Myo Tint Tun said was low – this monsoon season alone, U Myo Tint Tun said, rice paddy will be grown on more than 15 million acres of land.
About 32 million people in Myanmar rely on the rice farming business, U Tin Htwe said.
Using traditional methods in the agricultural business, farmers see poor yields and are running into debt, the MP said.
“Skilled people who can teach scientific farming system to farmers are rare,” he said.
However, U Myo Tint Tun said his department does not have sufficient staff to educate farmers about scientific farming systems.
“The staff we appointed to educate farmers is about 7000,” he said. “By that math, a staff member has to work about 700 acres. And then transportation in villages is not good. But the staff are not even provided with a motorcycle for their transportation.”
Farmers will suffer big losses if a natural disaster strikes and they cannot purchase crop insurance, U Tin Htwe said.
Under the U Thein Sein government, a Japanese crop insurance company came and started a weather index insurance system, but it never got off the ground.
Farmers who go into debt after facing crop losses often go abroad and leave their farmland behind, U Tin Htwe said. They cannot spend loans from Myanmar Agriculture Development Bank on a new farming business because they need the money to repay their old debts, he said.
In May, Union Minister Aung Thu told the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw that farmers could borrow money and easily spend it without trying to increase their agricultural production.
However, MP U Hla Than (NLD; Kawa), who seconded the proposal, said, “Farmers are going around in debt circles after taking out loans from the agricultural bank and informal lenders because their annual income is not equal to their annual expenditure.”
U Myo Tint Tun remained sceptical of the proposal, noting that farmers were encouraged to run paddy-cumfish farms in the 2000s.
“That method is good for big businesses but not for medium-sized businesses because they need to fence the field to keep the fish in,” he said. “So it is only suitable for those who could afford the investment.”
– Translation by Thiri Min Htun
Farmers transplant rice seedlings in a paddy field in Waw, Bago Region, at the beginning of monsoon season.