Cultivation of market-oriented crops important
THE Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation is considering growing more crops that are in high demand by the market.
Myanmar has only focused on growing production-oriented crops rather than more market-oriented crops which are in demand, said U Ye Tint Tun, director general of the Department of Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation.
Production-oriented crops focus more on efficiency and ease of growth, while market oriented crops are crops which the market currently wants.
“Farmers traditionally cultivate paddy and they just keep cultivating paddy as usual. Some onion farmers do the same.
But high-quality market-oriented crops also need to be cultivated. Rather than choosing crops which are easier to grow, farmers need to find out which crops the market is demanding and cultivate those crops in accordance with the standards of quality they need to achieve,” he said.
Changing the farming system won’t happen overnight though. One way to facilitate the process is by working with the private sector to gain know-how. Market information, price guarantee and technology transfer through foreign direct investment can be the solution for farmers to switch crops in a profitable manner, U Ye Tint Tun said.
“It may be very difficult to switch crops. But if we don’t start today, it can’t be possible in the future. We have the land access, logistics, electricity and a functioning banking system to attract FDI.”
The industry must also decide on which crops it plans to focus on. “After we have cultivated sufficient volumes of paddy for food security purposes, we need to decide which other crops, such as oil crops, culinary crops or fruit and vegetables, to focus on,” he said.
Not all areas are geographically suitable for planting new crops. “But there are also areas where the planting of new market-oriented cash crops can take place,” U Ye Tint Tun said. He added that an amended Farmland Law to facilitate the planting of new crops will be announced soon.
In the meantime, the ministry is encouraging farmers to cultivate substitute crops to meet the changing demands of the market, U Ye Tint Tun said.
“With regards to the recent crisis in the pulse and bean trade between Myanmar and India, we think black matpe is the crop we need to change. And, Myanmar has been importing a huge amount of palm oil. So, if we can cultivate more oil-based crops like peanuts, sesame, sunflower seeds we can substitute for palm oil import,” he said.
U Thein Aung, president of Freedom of Farmers League warned that in encouraging or pushing substitute cash crops the ministry needs to also consider the success rate of cultivating those crops, as farmers have to invest time, money and give up a lifelong rice bowl to cultivate new and unfamiliar crops.
“And according to the Farmland Law, if a farmer wants to change rice-cultivating land into land for other crops, he needs to have official approval. Most of the farmers rather have stable, fair profit rather than higher profit because if they fail after substituting crops, it will be in huge loss,” he said.
A vendor sells rice in Yangon. Farmers are being encouraged to plant other crops to meet demand.