Limited Rice Trade Resumes as Govt Weighs New Export Policy

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 15 September 2015

RANGOON — While limited rice exports resumed on Tuesday after a 45-day halt, the government announced overland rice exports would remain suspended as it considered a new trade policy on the back of recent severe flooding.

Flooding across the country over the last two months inundated more than 1.3 million acres of paddy fields and, in early August, the Myanmar Rice Federation (MRF) called on its members to halt rice exports until mid-September.

But while rice exports via sea routes resumed on Tuesday, Myint Cho, Director of Trade Promotion in the Ministry of Commerce, said the government would not yet resume overland exports as it mulled a new export policy.

“Even during these past 45 days, some exporters, on a case-by-case basis, were granted special permission to trade by sea,” Myint Cho said.

He added that the government was focused on ensuring local consumption needs were met and ongoing concerns had convinced officials to consider adjusting Burma’s rice export policy.

“As of now, an exporter may have to save at least 2 percent of his rice volume as surplus,” he said.

Following a meeting between MRF members and officials from the Ministry of Commerce on Tuesday, the federation said the government would soon issue new export licenses, but no date was specified.

Ye Min Aung, general secretary of the MRF, told The Irrawaddy the federation was waiting to see details of the new export policy. He said the ministry would have to weigh local consumption, prices and export volumes in determining a new approach.

“If the government has plans for a surplus of rice, we will have to check how to store it, who will handle it and what the volume will be,” he said.

Chan Tha Oo, a rice exporter based in Muse, Shan State, said that the new export policy would be of national importance and that exporters would just have to wait and see how it played out.

“Rice policy must look out for all farmers, traders, and consumers. We therefore shouldn’t rush to implement a new policy,” he said. “Rice exports across border check points have been stopped now, only local consumption is allowed here.”

Of the approximately 15 million tons of rice produced in Burma in the 2014-15 fiscal year, about 1.5 million tons, or 10 percent, were exported, according to the MRF.