Monday, September 25, 2017

Joint survey set to track wastage in rice industry

Myanmar could be losing a colossal 4 million tonnes of rice to waste and damage every year, and a local university is partnering with the Myanmar Rice Federation to assess the extent of the problem.

Farmers work in a paddy field. Photo: Kaung Htet / The Myanmar TimesFarmers work in a paddy field. Photo: Kaung Htet / The Myanmar Times

A nationwide survey conducted by Yezin Agriculture University over three months found that people in Myanmar consume 8 million tonnes of rice a year, according to university professor Daw Theingi Myint. She announced the findings at a press conference on July 2 at Myanma Agricultural Economic Private Corporation.

This is significantly lower than estimates under the previous government from the then-Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, which had estimated national consumption to be about 12 million tonnes a year.

The Yezin survey tested that figure, contacting 24,211 respondents in 5132 households in 148 townships in all states and regions between April and June, said Daw Theingi Myint.

The Myanmar Rice Federation said that yearly production across the hot and rainy seasons was about 14 million tonnes. If 8 million tonnes is consumed that leaves around 6 million tonnes available for export. But in the 2014-15 financial year, Myanmar exported just over 1.8 million tonnes, of which more than 1.1 million went to China.

Yezin Agricultural University and the Myanmar Rice Federation estimate that around 4 million tonnes of rice could be going to waste – half the country’s yearly estimated consumption. The two organisations are planning a joint survey to get a clearer picture of how much is lost to waste and damage across the industry.

The nationwide consumption survey was conducted to help shape agricultural policy. U Aung Than Oo, vice chair of the Myanmar Rice Federation, told the press conference that precise rice consumption data would help as growers refined a strategy covering both local rice production and the export sector.

“This survey tells us how much rice is consumed in Myanmar and how much is left for export. It will help us decide what kinds of paddy should be planted in which districts for local consumption, and in which districts we need to plant paddy for export,” said U Aung Than Oo.

The next step is to establish the rate of production by state and region, and to calculate the volume of waste between cultivating the rice and its arrival at the market. An eventual third step could be to promote the growing of more rice for export purposes.

But the association’s general secretary, U Thaung Win, said there could be practical difficulties in organising a survey for a more precise and detailed strategy.

“Assessing the volume of wastage will be very important. At this point, we cannot know how many acres of land are required for paddy planting. We hope the ministry will make progress on this matter,” he said.

According to the survey, of all the various kinds of paddy grown in the country, local consumers prefer Paw San, Ayeyar Min and other local varieties in Shan State.

Translation by San Layy and Khine Thazin Han