Today is a historic day, which honours the peasants all over the country. Peasants, I wish you all health and happiness and auspiciousness on this significant day and also pray for success in your agricultural undertakings.
Agricultural products not only serve as the backbone of the food industry but also as the main source of income for millions of rural people. As agriculture is shaping the development models of the economy, social affairs and environment, its growth has been realized as the main task of the State.
Peasants are the food-providers and benefactors of the country as their hard work helps ensure daily food supplies for the people, generate employment opportunities and earn foreign exchange income from export. So, the State is providing assistance directly to them in accord with the Law of Protection of the Farmer Rights and Enhancement of their Benefits. The State has already provided the farmers with K23.68 billion as emergency aid for crop damages caused by natural disasters. As for ensuring fair prices for farmers in the market, the State has been fixing and announcing the basic reference price for paddy since 2017-2018. Apart from extending the scope of this scheme, the State is also pushing for the broader emergence of the mutually beneficial contract farming system that will provide the supply source and ready market for farmers. Afterwards, procedures for the system will follow.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation (MOALI) is cooperating with the relevant ministries in distributing advanced technology for the availability of quality strains, water, anti-pest measures, and smooth transport for the agricultural products to reach local and foreign markets in order to produce crops, meat and fish of high quality.
The MOALI is the main body for the development of the agriculture sector, and apart from distributing pedigree strains and technology to enable farmers to raise or cultivate or produce quality crops and farm animals, it is also helping farmers to apply good agricultural practices (GAP), good animal husbandry practices (GAHP) and good aquaculture practices (GAqP). Moreover, it is also issuing Myanmar’s GAP Protocols and Guidelines in an extensive way.
Various kinds of natural disasters, including droughts, floods, hailstones, forest fires, storms, landslides triggered by climate change are harming the socio-economy of the majority of farmers. The relevant bodies are joining hands in the work of conserving natural resources and the natural environment and alleviating the effects of climate change, which is included in Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan (2018-2030). In addition, forests must be protected and preserved, and soil degradation must be mitigated. Scientific agricultural methods must be introduced for sustainable crop cultivation and soil improvement.
Myanmar now has a total sown acreage of 29.59 million acres, but thanks to the double cropping and mixed cropping farmers are conducting season-wise, the actual planted acreage of the country exceeds 48 million acres. Systematic land preparation and the use of quality and high-yield strains by the farmers will increase crop yield and will ensure enough supply for the daily consumption of the country’s growing population. As regards the land-use programmes, the government will encourage effective animal husbandry and fish farming, and through these programmes, there will be an increase in family income and surplus food supply for the nation. So, farmers are urged to use the land effectively.
A global drop in agricultural production this year is forecast because of climate change. So, long-term programmes have been laid down to select crops, crop patterns and agro methods that can withstand the changing weather conditions, and they are being implemented with the involvement of local and foreign partners. Every country is paying serious attention to overcome the danger of food shortages and strengthen the disaster response qualifications in the face of natural disaster triggered by climate change. Myanmar is also encouraging the task of storing reserved seeds, taking preparatory measures and setting up agricultural rehabilitation plans through government-private cooperation.
Water is the main requirement for the development of agricultural production. The country is supplying water from dams and other water distribution systems to grow 2.4 million acres of irrigated monsoon paddy, summer paddy and other crops. It is also dredging the silted streams and creeks and digging drainage canals in the whole country to mitigate the flood risk. It can now save three million acres from floods by implementing 4,519 such works.
The monsoon period is shrinking during the previous years, and the volume of water stored at the dams is also falling, alongside the decrease in the annual rainfall. Hence, irrigation facilities are being renovated, and irrigation systems improved to prevent the loss of irrigation water. Moreover, water utilization groups have been formed with the participation of farmers to reduce water losses and to effective use of water. Till now, 8,188 groups have been set up in 13 regions and states with the involvement of 238,750 farmers. As farmers can take part in the management affairs of the groups, they should pay special attention to effectively irrigating the crops and reducing the loss of water.
In addition, paddy, which needs a lot of water, must be replaced with value-added crops that have a ready market in changing the country’s crop patterns as a priority programme. Water should be used effectively as the entire world is facing a drop in rainfall due to global weather changes and the volume of water flowing into the dams is less than that in the previous years. The State will extend the technological disseminating programmes by establishing model plots where crops suitable for the respective places are planted. Only then will the farmers be able to change the crops patterns and select the ones that have a ready market, and that can fetch higher prices.
Myanmar is now facing natural disasters caused by climate change and coronavirus infection. The country is exerting utmost efforts to alleviate their impacts on the economy, health, education and social sector of the people to the possible degree. It is now trying to support and promote the programmes to continuously develop the socio-economy of the rural people, to narrow the socio-economic gap between rural and urban, to effectively use all human resources and financial resources with the involvement of the people for rural development, to improve the capacity of the rural people, to set up social groups that have the competence for disaster response undertakings and to encourage the local participation in the rural development tasks in accord with the existing Rural Development Law.
Agricultural cooperative societies will be set up with the collective force of farmers who only have small plots. The cooperative sector will enable the participation of farmers in all the steps of the procedure from seeding to marketing through transparent means and will guarantee employment opportunities and benefits for them.
It is time accelerated efforts for the socio-economic and multiple sector development including the agricultural sector should be made with the united force of peasants who are carrying out the agricultural and livestock breeding undertakings with goodwill and sincerity. So, I would earnestly urge all to join hands in overcoming all challenges, obstacles and hardships in the long-term interest of the entire people, including farmers of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and for peace, tranquillity and progress of the nation.