- By Than Aung Soe [Pyithu Hluttaw Representative]
Being a country which mainly depends on agriculture, Myanmar has 70 percent of the populace living in rural areas, eking out their lives as farmers. My parents, my offspring and I live on farming, but we are still in poverty and we cannot get out of the vicious circle of debts.
Why we lagged behind othersThere are many agricultural countries in the world. Why did we lag behind other countries though they are gradually developing? We grow paddy and eat rice which is our staple food. Rice is the major necessity for the national consumption. Adequacy of rice is of greatest importance for the country. We find it difficult in exporting the excess rice to overseas markets. Why? It may be attributed to poor quality of rice, mixture of unqualified rice and contamination of pesticides and their residues. Good agricultural practice [GAP] Less attention was paid to the market’s need in the past, as for us. Consecutively in the past we paid more attention to high-yield of crops only. We tried to increase per-acre-high-yield-rate from 40-50 baskets per acre to 70-100 baskets per acre. Thus, we neglected GAP [Good Agricultural Practice.] It is important for farmers to exercise the GAP, assuming that only GAP can bring about favors for our farmers’ agricultural produce in overseas markets. In regard to rice, we have noticed our neighboring country—Thailand with similar climate like ours. Its population is greater than our country, with its paddy growing acreage less than Myanmar. But, its rice export is ranked second in the global market and its rice quality regarded to be the best. So, even if we study the situations from the nearest country we can find out the solution.
Crops demanded by marketsWill we grow paddy only in our land? It is necessary for us to constantly monitor the needs of the global market. Brazil grows coffee, soybeans, wheat, rice and corn, with in USA corn grown, soybeans in Argentina, potato and onion in Netherland, chilli in India, pepper in Vietnam respectively for export as demanded by markets. Only if crops demanded by markets are grown can they fetch good prices.
Insufficiency of water for growing landAgriculture wholly depends upon climates. Without water, nothing can be grown. As a challenge against climate changes, dams were built with broader foresights. But, it did not result in as expected. Annual budgets were spent but it failed to bring about good results for farmers. Needs in Myanmar agricultural sectorMyanmar abounds with lots of land acreage for growing various kinds of crops, delta area, plain grounds, hilly regions and etc. Researches had also been made according to the classification of the land. We are pretty poor in analyzing soil test, nutrient content in the soil and measurement in salinity of the land. Occasionally nutrients can change, we have nothing for reference. Farmers tend to sow and spray fertilizers and pesticides according to others’ information and accounts, without knowing as to what the land needs—urea, t super, phosphate or lime to raise soil. Due to failure to choose rightful requirement, it will not be worthwhile. On account of false evidence form 7 concerning the ownership of the land, farmers find it difficult in carrying out the tasks. The State may face problems in implementing the projects as the accurate data of the growing land was not available. Agricultural Research Department also is inventing and producing pedigree seeds which can cause to yield high and which will be adaptable to the climate of the region. As for farmers, they individually need keep the seeds from their produce, as in previous days. But previous ways of keeping seeds were not systematical. Due to the plantation of different paddies such as Hsin Thu Kha, Hsin Eikari, Ayar Min, Taung Pyan, Hsin Thwe Latt, Pale Thwe and etc., in adjacent plots, pedigree seeds automatically become hybrid seeds. After harvesting, sheaves of different kinds of paddy are separately heaped, paddies are easily mixed on the threshing ground. Utilization of modern machineriesWith a view to avoiding such incidents, arrangements had been made for making one-acre plots for plantation, growing only one kind of paddy in a cluster of close plots and utilizing machineries in harvesting and winnowing. Mechanized agricultural organizations and private entrepreneurs are more utilizing machineries. The Government also is supporting farmers by lending loans to manage to purchase the machineries. Farmers want to rely upon imported multi-brand fertilizers instead of natural and foliar fertilizers. Without consulting with knowledgeable persons, they rush to buy fertilizers sold on hire-purchase, fertilizers sold with persuasive advertisements and fertilizers sold with incentives attached. Sharing agricultural know-how is also beyond the knowledge of farmers because of excessive uses of academic terms. Also, it is necessary for authorities concerned to take action against sales of fake fertilizers and unqualified pesticides.
Living in a vicious circle of loansApart from some farmers, most have no enough money for agricultural farming. The State Government is disbursing agricultural loans for monsoon and winter crops, increasing from K 100000 per acre in the past to K 150000 per acre at present. But, they usually get the agricultural loans for monsoon paddy just at the time of harvesting. Very soon later, they rush to sell their paddies to pay back loans. As for those who cannot sell paddy, they have to substitute it with Mya Sein Yaung Loans and winter crop loans, thus living in a vicious circle of loans. Some farmers borrow money from usurers at unfairly high rates of interest to pay back loans from the government. After that they have to take loans from the government to repay the loans to the usurers. Colloquially speaking, this is called in Myanmar, “qyf–xkwf–xkwf–qyf” “pay back—take out—take out—pay back.” In this way, they cannot get out of the vicious circle of loans.”At the time when prices of crops are soaring up, they had already sold out, leaving nothing to be sold. So, peasants want long-term loans. In repaying loans as well, they prefer the system of taking responsibility and accountability to the present system which are not yet adaptable to Myanmar farmers. Most of farmers usually live in their traditional living styles. They seldom calculate as to how much investment they make for the cultivation and how much profits they get for the year. Harvest depends upon weather/rain and spending spree depends on crops’ prices. Otherwise, they used to complain that bad weather and lower prices of crops are attributed to bad luck. For regularity of farmers’ lives, it is necessary for them to earn profits from agriculture at the end of the year. Accordingly, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock Breeding and Irrigation is making arrangements for emergence of crop insurance system. For the development of agricultural sector, a department alone or a person alone cannot afford. Provided that all collectively will make concerted efforts, Myanmar Agricultural Sector will rapidly develop.
Translated by Khin Maung Oo