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Addressing COVID-19 impacts on Agriculture is a must

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No sector has escaped from the impact of COVID-19. Its impact on agriculture is complex and varied across diverse segments that form the agricultural value chain. Even among the different segments, its impact varies widely among different regions and among producers and agricultural wage labourers.
It is a welcome action that the Myanmar Agriculture Development Bank (MADB) has reduced its interest rates on agricultural loans amidst the COVID-19 crisis.
However, with the restrictions on travel, prices for farmers’ products, especially seasonal crops and fruits which attracted travellers, have collapsed, and some farmers cannot find a buyer at any price.
Meanwhile, due to transportation problems and other issues, prices have declined for vegetables and other crops, yet consumers are often paying more.
Another short-term problem is that with everything from school cafeterias to restaurants closed, food processors who serve those markets have curtailed buying from farmers.
Farms have long been under stress from price declines for their products. The action we need to take now is to keep supply chains functioning well and to find alternative ways with safety measures for selling the products.
Smooth functioning of the supply chain, with adequate safety measures for the people involved, is of paramount importance.
Distribution of commodities to the vulnerable population, while maintaining prescribed guidelines and relevant protocols, particularly of social distancing, must be effectively monitored by respective regional authorities.
The economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 is not the farmers’ fault. The issue we anticipated since the coronavirus outbreak in China has finally posed a national-level challenge for our country.
The poor sections of society are always the hardest hit in any disaster or pandemic situation. With about seventy per cent of Myanmar’s population live in rural areas and their main business is agriculture. The agricultural sector contributes 22.5 per cent to the nation’s GDP. The agricultural sector developed at a rate of 2.1 per cent in 2018-2019 financial year and the agricultural ministry is working to increase the development rate to 2.5 per cent in 2019-2020 financial year.
We are confident that we can overcome this challenge through the united efforts of central government, regional governments and farmers associations.

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