Corn sellers hit hard by falling prices
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.
Myanmar workers prepare corn for drying in a field during the harvest in Nay Pyi Taw.