Ethnic Issues

Govt, Rice Federation Prepare Contingency for Paddy Flooding

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 8 August 2016

RANGOON — The Myanmar Rice Federation, farmers’ associations and the Department of Agriculture is preparing to support farmers with seeds and fertilizers, and to monitor water levels, after flooding nationwide has begun to inundate paddy fields.

Attention has been focused on the Irrawaddy Delta, whose 3 million acres of monsoon paddy accounts for a large portion of Burma’s rice production.

“We’re now monitoring water levels in paddy fields. Paddy is resistant [to current levels] but if water keeps getting higher, paddy will be damaged. We’ve made preparations for this [potential] loss,” said Myanmar Rice Federation spokesperson Ye Min Aung.

In Burma, monsoon paddy is mostly planted between June and August, and is harvested through the cool season, starting from October. Dry season paddy—cultivated in smaller quantities due to the lack of irrigation in many areas—is planted largely between November and December and is harvested from April.

“Recently, paddy fields in Upper Burma have been flooded but our particular concern is the Irrawaddy Delta. Working with the government, we are preparing to provide paddy seed, fertilizer and other necessary things for farmers,” Ye Min Aung said.

In flooding last year—caused by torrential rain that peaked in late July and early August—more than 1.3 million acres of paddy were swamped, out of 20 million acres being cultivated across Burma.

At that time, the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation and farmers’ associations disbursed paddy seed so that farmers could re-sow their crop before the end of the planting season.

Soe Tun, chairman of the Myanmar Farmers’ Association, said that the concern was less with rice production—which was not notably affected last year despite the inundations—but the welfare of individual farmers, many of whom were left with crippling debts.

“Farmers lost many things in their lives,” he said. “That’s why we’re preparing to provide paddy seed to support farmers.”

Soe Tun added that increases in rice prices were not a concern, because of adequate rice stores.

Ye Min Aung added that less than 30,000 acres of paddy in Upper Burma had been flooded so far, concentrated in Sagaing and Magwe divisions.

“If we compare this to nation-wide paddy acreage, it’s not that much, but if the Irrawaddy Delta is flooded, it would have serious implications for rice production this year,” he said.

Htin Lin, a resident in Nyaungdon Township of Irrawaddy Division, said the Irrawaddy River had swollen this week near the town; paddy fields in villages by the river have started to flood.

“Farmers can do nothing but wait and see what will happen,” he said.

Ye Min Aung said that the Myanmar Rice Federation and the government need to actively prevent rice traders from playing the market during times of floods.

“So far, rice stores for local consumption are sufficient,” he said.

Last year, despite the floods, 1.3 million tons of rice were exported during the 2015-16 fiscal year, ending in March. The Myanmar Rice Federation says it expects 1.5 million tons to be exported over the current fiscal year.

The consequences of last year’s flooding were believed to have been more indirect. The World Bank put economic growth at 7 per cent for 2015-16, against a projected mid-term growth average of 8.2 percent. Floods were blamed for much of the shortfall.