Rice productivity in Myanmar has stagnated in comparison with other rice producers in the region. Once the world’s largest rice exporter, Myanmar is now a relatively minor player. However, the nation’s export potential remains high because of abundant land and water resources, progressive policy reforms, increased agricultural investment, and international engagement. Growing global demand for rice, increasing public and private investment in infrastructure, and the potential for significant yield increases, all point to a strong return on investments to improve rice productivity in the country.
Despite its enormous potential, Myanmar’s agriculture has under-performed over the past fifty years.
This background paper is part of the overall diagnostic review of agriculture and food security in Myanmar, undertaken by MDRI-CESD in partnership with the Michigan State University, on behalf of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The Government of Myanmar and the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation face important decisions about the future direction of agriculture. Myanmar’s agricultural potential is enormous given the country’s resource endowments and favorable geographic location. As growing water scarcity constrains production around the globe, and particularly in neighboring China and India, Myanmar’s water resources will offer a significant agricultural competitive advantage. In addition, the country’s diverse topography and eco-systems enable farmers to produce a wide range of cereals, pulses, horticulture, fruits, livestock and fish.
The parliament of Myanmar considered a draft bill intended to improve the economic welfare of farmers by establishing a price support scheme for their products, as well as improving access to credit, inputs and technical assistance.
MDRI-CESD partnered with the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University (USA) to examine the risks and implications of the first component of this law, the price support schemes.
Myanmar is an agricultural based country, with the agriculture sector contributing 34% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 23% of total export earnings, and employing 63% of the labour force. About 75% of the total population reside in rural areas and are principally employed in the agriculture, livestock, and fishery sectors for their livelihood. Given the importance of agriculture in Myanmar, agricultural education, research, and extension are important priorities. In the process of developing the agricultural sector, conducting training and offering educational programs of international standard are crucial to the development of human resources.
CESD’s progress report, “Strategic reform for comprehensive and inclusive development in Myanmar”, reviews the organisation’s activities and achievements from April 2012 – June 2013.