“Takes no account of current plight of rice farmers in Rakhine State”
The Minister of Commerce, U Aung Naing Oo, announced that the exportation of rice grown in Rakhine State to Bangladesh will be allowed to be increased.
According to Military Council-controlled newspapers on April 4th, the Minister confirmed that a shipment of 200,000 tons of rice in total, including 2,500 tons grown in Rakhine State, has already been exported to Bangladesh.
Additionally, the Minister expressed plans for more rice exports from Rakhine State to Bangladesh in the future.
On April 3rd, during a meeting of the Working Committee on Social Economic Development in the Rakhine Region, the Minister delivered that statement at the meeting hall of the Ministry of Commerce in Naypyidaw. However the Minister did not elaborate on how many more tons of rice will be allowed to be exported.
U Khin Maung Gyi, Vice President of Rakhine Economic Initiative Public Co., Ltd (REIC), commented that granting the permission to export rice produced in Rakhine State via Sittwe will prove to be beneficial for the local farmers and millers.
“Currently the majority of rice produced in Rakhine State is stuck within the domestic market, with most of it being exported to Yangon and regions bordering China. After subtracting general and travel expenses, the profit for Rakhine rice traders is often lower than expected. However, if the rice grown in Rakhine is permitted to be exported to Bangladesh or India, which are closer, stronger business opportunities will emerge, ultimately benefiting Rakhine State. That’s my opinion”, he told Narinjara.
U Khin Maung Gyi cautioned, “On the other hand due to the low inventory of rice held by farmers, these opportunities may result in greater benefits for rice entrepreneurs than for the farmers themselves.”
According to the Arakan Farmers’ Union, the last rice planting season in Rakhine State saw a decrease in rice yield of approximately 40 percent, as only 800,000 acres of land were able to be planted, due to the increased cost of importing fuel and other raw materials.
A Pauktaw farmer provided a good insight into the real situation on the ground commenting , “The rice that we are able to grow and produce was barely sufficient for our own consumption,
leaving us with no surplus to sell. After factoring in the expenses of labor hire, fuel, and fertilizer, there is almost no profit remaining. The remaining rice is solely meant for subsistence.”
Bangladesh and Myanmar governments were able to sign a memorandum of understanding to facilitate rice trading between the neighboring countries, on September 7th, 2017.Following the signing of the memorandum of understanding, Myanmar exported a total of 200,000 tons of rice, which included 2500 tons produced by Rakhine State, to Bangladesh.