Myanmar Food production and agriculture
Myanmar remains a predominantly agrarian society. Approximately two thirds of the country’s population continues to earn a living from the land. Agriculture accounts for roughly 58% of the county’s GDP and 48% of its exports. Myanmar’s primary agricultural produce is rice which accounts for approximately 60% of the country’s total cultivated land area and for approximately 97% of total food grain production by weight.
Like other sectors, agriculture in Myanmar has suffered greatly as a result of the country’s international isolation. State investment in agriculture and food sciences and technology has been limited. As a result the sector is need of reform and modernization. Lending to the farming sector remains inadequate. The Myanmar Agriculture Development Bank, which was established to promote agricultural, livestock and rural economic enterprises, has been providing increased funding to famers however there remains serious problems relating to indebtedness insolvency and illiquidity.
As part of its reform initiatives the government introduced the Farmland Law and the Vacant, Fallow, and Virgin Land Management Law. These two pieces of legislation are expected to form the legal framework for the country’s land reform. Pursuant to the new laws the state remains the ultimate owner of all land. However farmers can now transfer or mortgage their land to repay their loans. An independent Central Farmland Management Body (CFMB) has been established to ensure compliance with the new regulations. The CFMB has the right to transfer or revoke the right to work farmland, and undertake land evaluations for various reasons. It operates under the auspices of the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation and will have central, regional and village offices.
Myanmar’s subtropical climate and rich soil are conducive to the growth and cultivation of over 60 crops from rice and sugarcane in the central belt to vegetables in the more temperate zones in the north. Arable land represents about a quarter of the country’s total land mass of which approximately half is currently being cultivated. If it can overcome the challenges ahead Myanmar will be on course to develop a dynamic, open, productive and diversified rural sector.
The liberalisation of Myanmar’s economy is likely to present numerous opportunities in food production, processing, research and technology, packaging and distribution industries among others. The sector stands to benefit from investment from international investment particularly in the value added services. The sector will also be boosted through the completion of infrastructure projects such as the deep-sea port and industrial estates in Dawei which will provide a gateway to the Indian Ocean, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.
The Myanmar Ministry of Agriculture (MMA) and Irrigation has published a presentation on Investment Opportunities in the Agricultural Sector
The key piece of legislation concerning the development of agricultural land is the Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Lands Management Law 2012
The United Nations Economic and Social Commission (ESCAP) for South East Asia and the Pacific has produced a number of working papers on Sustainable Agriculture Development Strategies for the Least Developed Countries of the Asian Pacific Region. The ESCAP paper on Myanmar is accessible here.
The Myanmar government is also interested in pursuing bioenergy opportunities. The Department of Agricultural Research of the MMA has published a presentation on the status and possibilities for bio-energy projects in Myanmar.
Agricultural Laws in Myanmar
Other miscellaneous laws applicable to the agriculture and food sector include: