Corn sell­ers hit hard by fall­ing prices

The Myanmar Times - - Business - thanhtoo@mm­ HTOO THANT – Trans­la­tion by San Layy

PLUNG­ING prices risk ru­in­ing Nay Pyi Taw farm­ers who have in­vested in corn crops. In­ter­est on loans and ris­ing labour costs are in­creas­ing their woes, farm­ers say.

One year ago, a tin of seed­less corn [1 tin equals 9 gal­lons or 40.9 litres] fetched K10,000 on the mar­ket. To­day, the price is about K4600 and fall­ing, said corn farmer U Ko Win of Aye Chan Thar vil­lage group, Lewe town­ship, Nay Pyi Taw, on Oc­to­ber 2. “First the price fell grad­u­ally to K8500. By har­vest time, it was K5000 and now it’s K4600,” he said.

Though farm­ers who have planted only a lit­tle corn were not much af­fected, oth­ers have in­vested heav­ily in the crop, and stand to lose big.

“We aren’t los­ing money be­cause we used our own labour to plant,” he said. “We cov­ered the cost of cul­ti­va­tion, but made no profit. Farm­ers who took out loans for the cul­ti­va­tion costs are now faced with the in­ter­est pay­ments.”

Yield rates vary from farmer to farmer, de­pend­ing in part on fer­tiliser use. The high­est yield is 100 tins per acre, though some yield only about 60 tins, said farmer U San Win of La­padan vil­lage. “It’s rare to get 100 tins. Most farm­ers get about 60 or 70 tins,” he said.

At K4600 per tin, 1 acre can yield an in­come of more than K300,000. But when the cost of seeds, labour, plant­ing and sup­plies is tak­ing into ac­count, the re­sult is an over­all loss of K50,000 per acre, said farmer U Ba Gyi, who planted 30 acres at Nyaung Pin Thar vil­lage in Py­in­mana town­ship. “That means a loss of K1.5 mil­lion for 30 acres,” he said on Oc­to­ber 3.

Farm­ers rely on the Chi­nese mar­ket and Myan­mar agents, he added. “The lives of Myan­mar farm­ers are in the hands of Chi­nese traders,” he said. Farm­ers say they are quoted good prices when the crop is ap­proach­ing har­vest, but those prices fall if the har­vest is good.

“This hap­pens ev­ery year. The price al­ways falls af­ter har­vest,” said farmer Daw Moe Moe of Yone Pin vil­lage group in Lewe town­ship. Once-plen­ti­ful farm labour has thinned out as young men seek work in the cities or over­seas.

“You can’t get the labour you need when the crops have to be planted and har­vested. All the farm­ers have to scram­ble for labour at the same time, which pushes up farm work­ers’ daily rate,” said U San Win. De­pend­ing on the sea­son and the na­ture of the work, a farm labourer can earn up to K5000 a day.

U Ba Gyi said, “Only about 5 per­cent of farm­ers can af­ford ma­chin­ery, de­spite the gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts to mech­a­nise agri­cul­ture. Only rich peo­ple can buy those ma­chines”, he said.

Photo: EPA

Myan­mar work­ers pre­pare corn for dry­ing in a field dur­ing the har­vest in Nay Pyi Taw.

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