World Bank looks to improve farmers’ access to irrigation in Myanmar

Rice
Photo shows a woman winnowing in a field in Myanmar, where rice is the main farm income source, providing livelihoods for over 50% of the population. The World Bank says rice price volatility in Myanmar is the highest among net rice exporting countries in Asia, preventing Myanmar’s rice farmers from earning high profits and keeping many families at or close to poverty income levels.— GNLM/Photo: Ye Myint

Yangon, 25 Nov — The World Bank is developing a project to improve the agricultural sector in Myanmar, an official of the global multilateral institution told the Global New Light of Myanmar on Tuesday.
The project, which is aimed at improving existing irrigation systems of the country and offering extensive services to Myanmar farmers, is being formulated in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation of Myanmar, he said.
The US$100 million project will be implemented in Myanmar following the approval of the board of the executive directors of the World Bank Group, which is expected to take place next month, he added.
Recently, the Work Bank released a new report titled “Myanmar: Rice Price Volatility and Poverty Reduction”, pointing out that rice price volatility in Myanmar is the highest among net rice exporting countries in Asia, preventing Myanmar’s rice farmers from earning high profits and keeping many families at or close to poverty income levels.
According to the new study, rice prices rose by 40 percent between 2009-2013, increasing pressure on Myanmar’s overall food security and export competitiveness.
The report revealed that the main cause of rice price volatility in Myanmar is heavy concentration of paddy production in November and December, resulting in sharp price drops from December to January and spikes between May and October. A fragmented seed market, poor roads, weak phone coverage, unreliable market information, low export diversification, and high costs for rice mills to maintain rice stocks amplify these price fluctuations even further, it added.
Apart from revealing its findings in the report, the World Bank made recommendations for lowering the rice price volatility in Myanmar.
It highlighted the importance of investments in agriculture, infrastructure and an improved business environment for lowering rice price volatility.
Lower costs of doing business and improved access to finance for rice mill owners and traders would reduce storage costs and increase private stocks, acting to smooth price fluctuations.
The report suggested that price volatility in Myanmar could be reduced by spreading rice production more evenly over the marketing year and stressed the need for farmer’s improved access to irrigation, availability of seeds with different harvesting periods and growth durations, and advice on production technologies.
Rice is the main farm income source for Myanmar, where the livelihoods of over 50 percent of the population depend on the performance of agriculture. Rice accounts for 70 percent of Myanmar’s total cultivated area and 30 percent of the value of its agricultural production.
The World Bank has produced a series of reports on Myanmar’s rice cultivation and industry as part of its overall technical assistance to the country.—GNLM

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