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Lowering Barriers to Finance is Key to Ensure Sustainable Agricultural Growth in Myanmar

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In the past three years, Myanmar’s banking and finance sector has witnessed rapid growth, primarily aided by foreign direct investment inflows and economic liberalisation. Despite this growth, however, millions of farmers lack access to finance due to the absence of financial institutions and barriers to affordable lending in rural areas.

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Dr. Zaw Oo, CESD Executive Director, speaking at Impact Terra

On 19 May, Yangon-based agro-tech startup Impact Terra organised a session “Lowering Barriers to Finance and Insure Farmers” that brought together members of farmer’s associations, micro finance institutions, banks, governmental representatives and other stakeholders to discuss the various ways to facilitate the availability of capital and insurance to rural farmers.

Speaking at this invite-only session, Dr. Zaw Oo, Executive Director of CESD, highlighted the importance of sustainable value-chain finance and how it can help small-holder farmers across Myanmar’s rural areas. “The government has been paying significant attention to providing value-chain financing for sustainable agricultural growth, and this has been underlined as one of the priorities in the National Economic Strategy. A robust financing system would ensure that farmers have access to services, information and it will help fill in existing gaps.”

Dr. Zaw Oo also said that five years ago, Myanmar’s agricultural landscape primarily included subsistence farming and there were very few credit providers in this country. However, this situation has changed drastically ever since the political and economic transition, which also saw the easing of economic sanctions placed by other countries.

“Currently, there are several credit providers and micro finance institutions from the US and EU, and this means farmers have a lot more choices compared to the past. In addition to this, the government has also been focusing on expanding and diversifying the array of commodities that generate income for farmers.”

In his closing remarks, Dr. Zaw Oo underscored that while measuring credit worthiness of farmers is important, farmers also need support to trade their products to neighbouring countries and new markets. “Since the Government of Myanmar is intended to triple their exports as underlined in the newly revised National Export Strategy, a better insight and analysis is needed to help bring farmers closer to the markets.”