The draft for the Myanma Rice Standards, being developed by the Myanmar Rice Federation (MRF) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), is 95-per-cent complete and amendments to the Myanma Paddy Standards are 60-per-cent finished. The MRF has said the new standards are important for ensuring locally grown rice and paddy are on par with international standards and helping growers penetrate foreign markets.
To produce good quality rice, the planted paddy must first be of good grade, and for the paddy to be good, it must come from a healthy stock. This is why selecting the correct variety is important.
Farmers have been cleaning rice using traditional methods for a long time now. The most common method of cleaning rice nowadays is sifting the grains. A motor turns a steel sieve to separate the underdeveloped, small, and broken grains from the good ones.
Earlier, there were farms where people could buy good varieties of rice and paddy and learn more about them. But these ‘clean-breed farms’ diminished under a particular system. However, they are making a slow comeback under the current civilian government’s administration. We can also see public rice breeding and production businesses are witnessing some success with encouragement. Regional and state governments are partially helping interested farmers to produce good varieties of rice. The Department of Agriculture and its affiliated branches have been venturing to the fields to supply rice breeds and provide technical assistance. Additionally, starting from last year, every township has a seed-cleaning machine for use of farmers and cultivators.
Yet, with all the government support and use of traditional methods, the practice of planting crops from good varieties has not been as widespread as hoped. Some reasons behind this could be that farmers themselves are not aware of the importance of selecting good, healthy breeds, or they are ill-equipped to produce their own healthy breeds, or they consider the price of good stock sold at centers to be expensive. It is a sure fact that if a farmer switches to maintaining good breeds then his expenditure will rise in part due to higher operation costs and throwing away of grains that fall short of the set standards. We need to properly inform farmers of these various aspects.
It is important for farmers to realize the benefits of selecting good breeds. This also depends on the millers and buyers who interact with farmers. If the price of good quality grains is the same as low-quality ones, then farmers will see no reason to work hard in planting good paddy breeds, reasoning there’s no difference between an ox for a kyat and a cow for a kyat. This will result in difficulty acquiring good breeds in the long-run and will impede local produce from reaching international standards as envisioned by the Myanmar Rice Federation.
This is why millers need to be systematic in their purchasing practices. Buying good quality products at reasonable prices will encourage farmers to plant more good breeds. In fact, it will be even better if millers distribute good breeds among the farmers they work with. In time, they will be able to purchase paddy from these farmers without worry, effectively creating a win-win situation for everyone.
Farmers need to consider planting good rice breeds as it is the only way to meet set standards. Whether by conventional methods or modern ones, they need to revive the practice of selecting good grains or purchase them if they are unable to select themselves.
This being the case, it is up to the government, the millers, the farmers, and other stakeholders in the agriculture business to work together to produce high-quality rice and paddy that meet the international criteria.