By Htet Hlyan
The repercussions of COVID-19 has stalled agricultural and livestock breeding businesses in addition to the manufacturing sector. Myanmar’s tourism industry, hotel industry, textile and garment industry and other businesses including those run by farmers are facing the negative repercussions of COVID-19.
This is why the government designed the COVID-19 Economic Relief Plan (CERP) to reduce the harmful effects of the disease and overcome it together.
The action plan aims to develop the socioeconomic livelihoods of people living in rural areas and their main vocation and source of income from agriculture, livestock breeding and fisheries. The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation is implementing the small-scale agricultural support programme and Deputy Permanent Secretary U Hla Tun answered some questions regarding the project to assist local farmers.
Q: Can you tell us some of the action plans of the ministry regarding the economic relief plan for COVID-19?
A: The Ministry of Planning, Finance and Industry formulated the CERP and sent it to our ministry on 28 April 2020.
Our ministry has to implement the action plans in Goal 2 of the CERP – 2.1.7. Support to Farmers, Small AgroProcessors, Seed Farmers and AgroBusinesses for Planting and Income Retention. The ministry will review subsections (a) to (d) under action plan 2.1.7 for plans that may not be compatible with fund requirements and will be implemented by the seven departments under the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation.
We’ve sent back K132,461.56 million necessary for the action plans to the Ministry of Planning, Finance and Industry (MoPFI) on 8 June 2020. MoPFI made a decision at its coordination meeting on 10 June 2020 to permit K92,611.970 million for subsections (b) and (d) of action plan 2.1.7.
Q: How will you utilize the allotted funds to help farmers?
A: We will implement subsection (b) of action plan 2.1.7 which entails cash or lending support to smallholder farmers who have lost sales revenue or remittance income to support input purchases in time for monsoon planting.
The Agricultural Department will work closely with seed production farmer associations and seed production companies to implement the rice seed production for 100,000 acres project in Nay Pyi Taw Council Territory and the 14 states and regions.
If farmers can have access to the best crop strains and acquire the amount when they need it, then it will boost agricultural production, increase their income and develop their livelihoods as well. This project will remedy the negative effects of COVID-19 on the agriculture sector and will use K14,911.330 million from allotted funds.
The Rural Development Department will implement the village capital fund project in villages with 101 households and above. They will allocate K30 million to each of these 1,200 villages. They will then allocate K20 million for each of the 550 villages with 51 to 100 households, and K10 million to each of the 250 villages with 50 households and under. Thus, they will utilize a total of K42,000 million for all 2,000 villages for farmers facing financial hardships, households wishing to work on manufacturing and small-scale trading, and households effected by COVID-19. The Fisheries Department will supply 2000 fingerlings and K40,000 per acre for all 150,000 acres of fish breeding businesses, utilizing K6,000 million in funds, to ensure the fishery sector manages to raise and meet fish consumption. The Department of Industry is aiming to provide the necessary machinery to farmers to ensure they can plant the monsoon crops and winter crops before the end of 2020. They will use K1,256.850 million from funds to meet this goal.
Q: Can you explain the processes under subsection (d) of action plan 2.1.7?
A: We will implement the Cash for Work project to create jobs that will generate income for local people. The Rural Development Department will select labour intensive projects using K25,000 million for the Cash for Work project. It will be implemented in 2,488 villages that have large number of unemployed residents, people working for daily wages, those with vulnerable populations, have proportionately large or significant cases of communicable diseases, have ease of transport and regional security, villages with active enthusiasm and unity, villages high on the multi-dimensional index, and villages with a large number of returnees from working overseas.
The Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department is working after restrictions have been lifted to implement the livestock breeding, production and creating job opportunities in 100 townships. The townships with the most negative effects from COVID-19 and residents with the most enthusiasm or experience with livestock. A hundred trainees will be selected from each township and the department will either implement village-level livestock breeding projects or impart training on livestock breeding systems so that local residents can attain jobs. The project will use K1,440 million from allotted funds. The Department of Fisheries will use K60.770 million from allotted funds to organize 30 training sessions for seamen on marine safety and security. The training courses will be held in coastal regions such as Yangon Region, Ayeyawady Region, Rakhine State, Mon State and Taninthayi Region. The Department of Irrigation and Water Management will use K1,138 million from allotted funds for repairing different types of canals in Yangon and Ayeyawady regions as they suffer damage from floods annually. The project will employ local residents.
The Agricultural Mechanization Department will use K204 million from funds and department-owned tractors to cover the cost of oil for farmers.
The Small Scale Industries Department will use K600.210 million from funds to train 9,000 trainees on value added products such as regional cuisine, accessories, electricity, clothing, weaving, wood, bamboo, handicrafts, and household items, effectively an on job training programme.
Q: Can you explain what benefits will arise from these projects?
A: The first and main objective is to ensure food security and adequate support during the economic repercussions from COVID-19. The projects will assist people living in rural areas to achieve better living standards and will use 92.611 billion from the Union budget to do so. This will create numerous benefits to 70 per cent of the nation’s population, who live in rural areas, within 3 months. While the projects themselves will be short-termed, the effects will last for the long term.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
A: CERP is being implemented with funds from the Union budget and affiliated development organizations. We will use the World Bank’s loan to develop agricultural products after COVID-19, implement market networking under CERP 2.1.7 (c), the contract agricultural system, and upgrading laboratories for quality testing.
The EU is providing assistance of EURO 70 million for reforming the nutrition sector and we will be signing an agreement with them soon. We will be using funds from there for COVID-19 relief and rehabilitation matters as well. (Translated by Pen Dali)