New LIFT/World Bank study highlights ways to unleash Myanmar’s agricultural potential


Farmers in Daik U Township, Bago region. Photo: Hong Sar/Mizzima

Low agricultural profitability in Myanmar is a result of multiple factors, many of them associated with the under supply of public services such as research, extension, irrigation, and other rural infrastructure, according to a new report by the World Bank and the Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund (LIFT).

The ‘Myanmar: Analyses of Farm Production Economics’ study of more than 1700 farm households in Ayeyarwady, Bago, Sagaing, and Shan State shows that farming systems in Myanmar are diversified. Most farms surveyed produced paddy during the monsoon season, but also grew a variety of other crops like beans and pluses, oil seeds, and maze during dry season.

“Agricultural production in Myanmar is more than paddy. Many farmers produce more than two crops, which is very positive,” said Dr Sergiy Zorya, a Senior Agricultural Economist of the World Bank and a leading contributor of the report. “Yet, irrespective of crop, farm profits are found to be low, and they are not sufficient to raise the surveyed households’ per capita income above the regional rural poverty line.”

Land and labour productivity, as well as profitability of paddy production, are all lower in Myanmar compared to other Asia’s rice producers, according to the report. One day of work during wet season generates only 23 kg of paddy rice in Myanmar, compared to 62 kg in Cambodia, 429 kg in Vietnam, and 547 kg in Thailand. Myanmar farmer receives about USD 139 per hectare net profit from monsoon paddy compared to USD 342 in Cambodia and USD 423 in Vietnam.

“It appears that extension services, on-farm training, and vocational skills programmes are absolutely necessary to uplift farm labour skills in Myanmar, and with it their profitability,” said Dr Zorya. “There is also a need for more flexible and demand-driven irrigation services, higher supply of certified seeds for all major crops, and better access to rural financial services.”

Improved extensions services that reach out to more farmers, increase crop coverage, and accelerate adoption of modern farming knowledge and technologies are vital for Myanmar to improve its agriculture sector, according to the report.

“The agricultural sector has significant impact on poverty alleviation in Myanmar,” said Andrew Kirkwood, LIFT’s Fund Director. “The report provides both primary data and analyses that can be used for the design of public programmes and policies that will improve agricultural productivity and profitability, and leverage agriculture’s role in poverty reduction. We are making the primary data available to the public, so that researchers in Myanmar and around the world can produce more analyses for Myanmar.”

Agriculture is a large and important sector in Myanmar, making up around one quarter of Myanmar’s total goods exports, and employing more than half of the country’s workforce.

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