Bago Rice Millers Ask Govt to Clamp Down on Chinese Traders

By Kaung Myat Min 19 October 2018

Bago Region — Rice millers in Bago Region have filed a complaint with the regional government alleging that Chinese merchants are buying paddy illegally.

U Hla Oo, secretary of western Bago’s rice millers association, told The Irrawaddy that Chinese merchants were buying up paddy from local farmers at prices above the local market rate.

“We complained about it with the Bago government in mid-September, but they didn’t take any action. So earlier this month we filed a complaint directly to the Bago Region Parliament speaker,” he said.

In the local market 100 baskets of rice, equal to 4,091 kg, currently fetch about 580,000 kyats ($367). Chinese merchants are reportedly paying more than 600,000 kyats for the same amount.

It is not the first time Chinese merchants have paid above-market prices for local paddy, said U Hla Oo. But he said this time the practice was leaving supplies for domestic consumption dangerously depleted.

“This year, western Bago has had the earliest harvest in the whole country, so [Chinese] buyers came to buy. The worst thing is that, since we’ve exported about 4 million tons of rice, stocks for domestic consumption are running low,” he said.

“Rice prices have increased because of Chinese buyers and the market prices are fluctuating,” he added.

The Myanmar government bans the export of paddy rice and restricts its sale to the domestic market.

But rice millers say the government is losing out on tax revenue from an illegal rice trade and that rising rice prices also inflate prices for meat and fish. Business sources said the prices for paddy byproducts used to make snacks and animal feed, including broken kernels and husk, are much higher this year as well.

“Chinese buyers don’t come in person; they sent middlemen. Some farmers get good prices. The price they offer is not bad because labor is scarce and [renting] a harvester costs about 45,000 kyats per acre,” U Khin Maung Zin, a farmer in Zigon Township, told The Irrawaddy.

On Oct. 12, the local legislature sent a letter to the regional planning and finance minister asking him to take the necessary action.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.