Myint Win Thein
Agriculture is a major industry in Myanmar but is also one of the most vulnerable sectors of the economy. The sector is prone to natural disasters such as floods, droughts and storms that have an enormous impact on crop yields. This year, Myanmar suffered losses due to floods, with many acres of rice paddy fields inundated at the start of the rainy season.
Moreover, economic factors such as demand and supply also determine crop prices. According to a recent news report, Myanmar’s rice exports dropped by over 100,000 tonnes compared to the same period last year. Declines in export demand will greatly affect the local prices of rice at present and during cultivation next year.
In addition, rising prices of imported fertiliser and pesticide also place a burden on the sector. Farmers have to take out agricultural loans from banks as well as borrow money from private lenders at high interest rates. When natural disasters and economic factors are not in their favour, they struggle to repay their debts on time.
Therefore, it can be safely said that the people who are engaged in the agriculture sector are unusually vulnerable to natural disasters and economic impacts. Peasant farmers make up a great majority of the population of Myanmar. Economic damage to the majority of the population of a country will have long-term consequences for the entire country.
Therefore, it is important that the impact of natural disasters and economic factors are reduced as much as possible by finding out a means of safeguarding them from its effects. Disaster preparedness in the agriculture sector may be able to reduce the impact of natural disasters, while diversification of export markets is likely to help raise the demand. It is time we paid attention to the agriculture sector.