Rice Federation Forecasts Exports to Resume as Scheduled in Mid-September

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 31 August 2015

RANGOON — Recently halted after severe flooding that inundated swathes of the country, Burma will resume rice exports as scheduled from mid-September, the country’s rice federation said on Monday.

Members of the Myanmar Rice Federation had agreed to a temporary pause on exports and to sell domestically at regular prices to buyers in urgent need while authorities’ and aid groups struggled to respond to the country’s worst flooding in recent memory.

The rice federation forecasts requirements for local consumption will be met following what would be over a month-long halt in mid-September.

“New rice will come onto the market as next month is harvest season, then the market price will be stable,” said Soe Tun, joint secretary of the Myanmar Rice Federation. “There is enough for local consumption now, that’s why we will resume exports as scheduled.”

Despite the federation’s urgings, rice prices increased in some areas of the country and shortages were experienced in townships seriously impacted by flooding, including in Chin State, Arakan State and Magwe Division.

The Myanmar Rice Federation opened some 20 rice shops in flood-affected areas, including in Rangoon and Mandalay, to sell rice at the subsidized rate of around 22,000 kyat per 50 kilogram bag.

But according to reports from Sittwe, 50 kilogram bags were selling for between 60,000 to 96,000 kyat in the Arakan State capital.

The federation stated in early August that it would call on supplies of around 85,000 bags in Rangoon and 15,000 in Mandalay to meet local demand.

“Now the normal rice price is stable at 20,000 kyat per [50 kilogram] bag,” Soe Tun said. “And I heard there are only a few people buying rice in our 20 rice shops [in flooded areas], that’s why we won’t delay rice exports.”

Rice is a key export for Burma, with the majority traded overland to China, through the Muse-Ruili checkpoint.

Min Zaw, a rice trader based in Rangoon, said he expected the local price wouldn’t increase when traders were able to resume rice exports to China, but consumers would have to wait and see.

“There is still enough rice on the market for local consumption and the price is still stable,” he said.

More than 1.3 million acres of paddy fields have been flooded in Burma, mainly in Kale, Kanbalu and Monywa in Sagaing Division and the Myanmar Rice Federation predicted exports to be considerably down on last year.

“Though we expected to export about 2 million tons of rice this year, we won’t reach that [target]. Now we expect to export less than 1.5 million tons,” Soe Tun said.

Figures from the Ministry of Commerce put total rice exports at more than 1.7 million tons in the 2014-2015 fiscal year, reaping nearly US$645 million. Exports were shipped to 64 countries including China and Japan, as well as other nations of ASEAN, Europe and Africa.